Children in the Landscape: children’s participation in landscape design

Research Description

This research was concerned with the effectiveness of landscape architecture in the design of child-orientated environments, and explored children’s participation in the design of school grounds and local neighbourhood places, such as local parks and playgrounds.  The purpose of the research was to address critical issues of children’s participation, including how best to structure children’s participation, how the roles of architect and children should be played, and the skills and techniques needed to facilitate participation.  It aimed to identify the most child-responsive approach.

Research began with the analysis of documented case studies of landscape design involving children.  There was found to be considerable variation in approach, ranging from purely consultative to shared decision-making.  From this analysis, the researcher hypothesised that children can more effectively influence design decisions if their involvement is woven through the whole design process.  This appeared to be best achieved by a high level of interaction between landscape architect and children.  One of the most effective methods appeared to be that of storytelling, supported by a variety of visual communication techniques.

The second stage of the research was a series of field experiments that examined the value of this storytelling technique in some detail.  The participants were children who were recruited from local primary schools that had agreed to take part in the project.  The experiments took place in the schools.  The storytelling approach generated a high level of interaction, thus enabling the exploration of children’s social and emotional ideas, and the incorporation of these into the designs produced.  The designs were intended to be implemented, though this was outside the remit of the research project.

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