In this paper I present childhood biographies of three people who grew up in or near a public housing development located on the border between the contrasting communities of Yorkville and East Harlem in New York City. Stories of their middle childhood (ages 11-13) poignantly capture the social and spatial evolution of play and recreation in New York City from the 1930s until present time. Based on in-depth childhood autobiographies and archival materials from the New York Times, I demonstrate changes in children’s access to play and recreation space, how children negotiate their lived experiences in these spaces, and how these spaces reflect differing representations of childhood over time. While play and recreation are, of course, a broad range of activities that occur in multiple settings and under various forms of supervision, the focus of this paper is upon the role of the streets, public parks and playgrounds in children’s everyday lives. Preliminary results suggest that children’s access to public play spaces in New York City has declined over time. This decline can be attributed to public disinvestment in neighborhood parks and playgrounds, perceived (and real) violence in these spaces, and more recently, to the commercialization and privatization of playtime activities.
There is a revolution underway in the interface between architecture and planning. Very recent research is enabling a novel understanding of the neuroscience behind how people perceive and experience the built environment. One such work, Cognitive Architecture: Designing for How We Respond to the Built Environment (Sussman, Ann, and Justin B. Hollander. 2015. New York: Routledge), argues for a set of testable principles for architecture and planning practice. Its overall line of investigation is that certain design characteristics of the built environment can influence brain wave production. Specifically, the interest lies in whether the presence of features suggestive of Cognitive Architecture is associated with certain brain responses. This working paper presents the results of a pilot study into this question, discusses technical issues and limitations and provides suggestions for future research avenues.
Our children are the citizens of tomorrow, who will have to safeguard the future of our cities. Yet children are too frequently ignored by architects, devel- opers, city officials and planners. Inattention and brutality in human relationships are internalized and leave their traces in the child's development. The monotony, indifference and placelessness of the physical environment also leaves a lasting impact on the cognitive and emotional development of children (Dubos, 1968).
Journal of the American Planning Association (2003)
This article discusses successful common grounds for children public settings that enable the harmonious intermingling of children of different backgrounds, races, and ethnicities and that encourage their social interchange, play, educational development, and collaboration. Our study focused on three types of public space that tend to bring these children together: the public school, the park, and the neighborhood community center. The research employed a variety of methods to study the interaction of children 9 to 12 years of age. Field work took place at four sites in West Los Angeles, Santa Monica, and the San Fernando Valley that enjoy a high level of intermixing and have a reputation for promoting diversity. Subjects in the research included children, teachers, and administrators. The article highlights the findings of the field work and concludes with a comparative analysis of the different settings and a discussion of the environmental and programmatic attributes that contribute to their success.
This paper is based on a three-year participatory action research (PAR) project conducted with children living and working on the streets of six Turkish metropolitan cities. We first examine how the dominant policy fails to acknowledge street children as actors in public space and review empowering methodology for working with street children. Second, we discuss the PAR methodology and how it facilitates meaningful participation by street children. Third, we consider how the project contributed to the inclusion of street children in public space. Finally, we review the role of PAR in empowering street children.
Taylor, A. F., Wiley, A., Kuo, F. E., & Sullivan, W. C.
Children growing up in the inner city are at risk for a range of negative developmental outcomes. Do barren, inner-city neighborhood spaces compromise the everyday activities and experiences necessary for healthy development? Sixty-four urban public housing outdoor spaces (27 low vegetation, 37 high vegetation) were observed on four separate occasions. Overall, inner-city children's everyday activities and access to adults appeared remarkably healthy; of the 262 children observed, most (73%) were involved in some type of play, and most groups of children (87%) were supervised to some degree. In relatively barren spaces, however, the picture was considerably less optimistic: Levels of play and access to adults were approximately half as much as those found in spaces with more trees and grass, and the incidence of creative play was significantly lower in barren spaces than in relatively green spaces
Alex McClimens, Mark Doel, Rachel Ibbotson, Lesley Lockwood, Elaine Muscroft & Nick Partridge
This paper reports on a pilot project to examine the concept of wellbeing as expressed locally by public reaction to the Peace Gardens refurbishment in the city centre of Sheffield completed in 1999. It was immediately popular with the public, but the aim was to find out what benefit people felt they derived from using the space. The study was conducted via a questionnaire delivered on site to pedestrian traffic over three weeks one summer. Over a thousand users of the space were asked one very simple question: How do the Peace Gardens make you feel? The authors’ interpretation of the responses indicates a very high level of approval. Users of the space reported high satisfaction across four themes: wellbeing, safety, community and respite. While these findings largely accord with the literature, further planned city-centre development threatens the success of the Peace Gardens. The paper considers whether the planning of such spaces is designed to empower users to meet others on their own terms, or whether planners recognize that social needs require to be more controlled in busy urban environments.
Journal of Architectural and Planning Research (1998)
Tingwei Zhang and Paul H. Gobster
Leisure preferences and open space needs were explored within a discrete, homogeneous ethnic community: the Chinese Americans of Chicago's Chinatown. Face-to-face interviews and focus group discussions were used to identify outdoor leisure patterns and preferences, in general, and with respect to new park development being planned for the community. Findings show that although some popular activities are no different from what might be expected for the mainstream Anglo American population, the meaning and significance of these activities have clear and unique ties to Chinese culture. Preferences for the new Chinatown park development mirror activity preferences, emphasizing facilities that enhance the natural environment for passive activities. Notable differences in activity preferences were found within the sample of respondents according to age, generational status, and other factors. Park planning considerations and future research needs are identified.
Vicky Cattella, Nick Dines, Wil Gesler, Sarah Curtis
The rejuvenation of public spaces is a key policy concern in the UK. Drawing on a wide literature and on qualitative research located in a multi-ethnic area of East London, this paper explores their relationship to well-being and social relations. It demonstrates that ordinary spaces are a significant resource for both individuals and communities. The beneficial properties of public spaces are not reducible to natural or aesthetic criteria, however. Social interaction in spaces can provide relief from daily routines, sustenance for people’s sense of community, opportunities for sustaining bonding ties or making bridges, and can influence tolerance and raise people’s spirits. They also possess subjective meanings that accumulate over time and can contribute to meeting diverse needs. Different users of public spaces attain a sense of well- being for different reasons: the paper calls for policy approaches in which the social and therapeutic properties of a range of everyday spaces are more widely recognised and nurtured.
This study investigates outdoor recreation participation within a multifunctional landscape, a UNESCO Man and Biosphere Reserve. The reserve, the Kristianstad Vattenrike located in southern Sweden, has made a deliberate effort to make the experience of biodiversity possible for residents and visitors. Recreation is a key part of the biodiversity conservation effort in the area, represented by the infrastructure of the Kristianstad Vattenrike's 21 visitor sites. Given the biosphere reserve context, this study investigates the question of whether there is a relationship between outdoor recreation participation and place attachment. Survey data was collected using concurrent application of multiple sampling strategies including both probability and purposive sampling of local adult residents of the biosphere area. Quantitative analysis showed a significant positive relationship between the level of outdoor recreation participation and place attachment. Qualitative data supported this relationship with more details about place attachment within the studied area. The study confirms a relationship between place attachment and outdoor recreation and provides insight into how the biosphere reserve context supports this relationship. The results of this study show that significant biodiversity management in close conjunction with outdoor recreational opportunity can be achieved and provides opportunities for human engagement and experience of biodiversity. Management Implications: This research can help managers design recreational settings that support biodiversity conservation goals. Our research found that: • A leading motivation for outdoor recreation participation is nature experience and this motivation can be used by managers to highlight a biodiversity conservation interpretive message in the design of outdoor recreation infrastructure. • Providing proximate access to nature based outdoor recreation, to support deliberate and direct experience of biodiversity, is an important component of engaging the public in biodiversity conservation. • Recreation proximity alone will not create public engagement in biodiversity conservation. However, proximity as a part of a deliberate institutional design including biodiversity conservation, sustainable development, and logistic support for research and monitoring may be critical for public engagement.
This paper explores the place-based meanings of an urban public space, MacArthur Park, in a Latino and immigrant neighborhood in Los Angeles, California. Both quantitative and qualitative data analysis revealed a broad range of park experiences that were both positive and negative and produced meanings that were individual, social, cultural, and political. The study found that MacArthur Park affirms traditional national, cultural, and ethnic identities for immigrants and supports their construction of a new, translocal and Central American identity in Los Angeles. Although the study found that the park also serves as a restorative, entertaining, and social space for park goers, these positive experiences were accompanied by negative experiences and meanings of the park related to maintenance and crime and conflicts associated with inequality and access, confirming the importance of considering the full range of social, cultural, and political meanings associated with place.
The paper begins by reviewing the discourses of sustainable development and children's rights, before mapping-out their significance to play and playgrounds. The paper then draws on fieldwork conducted in two case study communities in Wales to investigate the spatial and social places of play. The paper concludes by questioning the sustainability of playgrounds and by urging reconsideration of the role of playgrounds in the built environment.
The article focuses on public open space (POS) in small Slovenian cities. It highlights the importance of planning and designing high-quality, diverse POSs, which contribute to the quality of life and urban development in cities. POS is seen as a key physical element of a city and is defined as a non-built urban space that is, under equal terms, accessible to all. The article focuses on both green areas and civic space. Results derive from a physical analysis and survey conducted during research for a doctoral dissertation. Ten small Slovenian cities are selected, where detailed physical analysis and surveys were carried out. Designing high-quality POS for everyday activities is highlighted. The results show that the inhabitants most frequently use POS when going about their everyday business. The article highlights the importance of designing various types of POS for urban development of cities.
Public squares and open spaces for promenade have been a feature of Continental European cities since the Renaissance. In the seventeenth century purely recreational urban spaces began to be created in Britain and Ireland. The development of Dublin's green spaces, however, was delayed until after the Restoration, which saw the city transformed from a medieval walled city into a large, modern conurbation. Some of Dublin's open spaces were completely lost to development; others were embedded into the fabric of the new city. Green spaces were regularized into geometric shapes and used to entice developers and attract smart residents to new areas. The paper examines the development and metamorphosis of Dublin's ancient public spaces, looking at the activities that took place on these sites and their evolution from utilitarian areas of commonage to fashionable squares for promenade
The existing literature on the social, personal, and health consequences of high density housing is unclear regarding the significance that can be attached to the physical features of housing. The present study, which is based on interview information collected in Hong Kong, is able to control for deprivations and stresses related to "poor housing," and it is also able to distinguish superficial from more severe measures of personal strain. High densities are seen to have very little effect on individuals and families, although there is a suggestion that congestion is a potentially significant stress.
Results from an inner-city teen focus group on parks and urban green space in Los Angeles, California and responses to parallel questions posed to adults from the same area show striking differences. While adults focused on activities and cited a need for additional recreation-oriented parks for teens, teenagers themselves focused on greened spaces suitable for socializing and relaxing. Teens were also keenly interested in local parks, aware of maintenance issues, and concerned about personal safety.
Steven Cummins, Sarah Curtis, Ana V. Diez-Roux & Sally Macintyre
Epidemiology, sociology, and geography have been successful in re-establishing interest in the role of place in shaping health and health inequalities. However, some of the relevant empirical research has relied on rather conventional conceptions of space and place and focused on isolating the ‘‘independent’’ contribution of place-level and individual-level factors. This approach may have resulted in an underestimate of the contribution of ‘place’ to disease risk. In this paper we argue the case for extensive (quantitative) as well as intensive (qualitative) empirical, as well as theoretical, research on health variation that incorporates ‘relational’, views of space and place. Specifically, we argue that research in place and health should avoid the false dualism of context and composition by recognising that there is a mutually reinforcing and reciprocal relationship between people and place. We explore in the discussion how these theoretical perspectives are beginning to influence empirical research. We argue that these approaches to understanding how place relates to health are important in order to deliver effective, ‘contextually sensitive’ policy interventions. r 2007 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
While public spaces in city centres still provide for the traditional uses for which they were created, today - as the example of the sidewalk cafe shows - their attraction lies more in their ability to generate individual pleasure and play.