A Space with Meaning: Children’s Involvement in Participatory Design Processes

By Alessandro Rigolon.

Published by The Design Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

This article takes the position that space as designed is a material setting for learning, accommodating specific functions, while people can give meaning to space through their engagement with it, making it a place. This approach specifies that an essential characteristic of a child-centered design method is the active participation by children, teachers, and family members in planning elementary and middle schools. Since space is given meaning by its occupants, the actual users have to be included in the project: as children and their teachers and parents become active stakeholders, the spaces envisioned by professional designers can become “places” with their own special meanings and suited to the special needs of each community. The way of involving children in such a process should be age and culturally appropriate. Moreover, such participation in placemaking needs not end when the building is complete but can be extended into the life of the school. The article ends by proposing that learning environments should have “unfinished spaces” for children and teachers to manipulate and interpret, as a means to enhance a stronger involvement and attachment to spaces created by professional designers.

Keywords: Child-centered Learning Environments, Participatory Design, Space and Place

Design Principles and Practices: An International Journal, Volume 5, Issue 2, pp.151-164. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 824.077KB).

Alessandro Rigolon

PhD Student, Dipartimento di Architettura e Pianificazione Territoriale, Università di Bologna, Bologna, Italy

Alessandro Rigolon is a PhD student in Building Engineering and Architecture at the University of Bologna. In 2007 he has been an intern at SEMAPA, Paris, to work at his graduation thesis about a new residential district in Paris. After receiving a master degree from the University of Bologna in Building Engineering and Architecture with the maximum grades in July 2007, he’s been working in architectural offices in Emilia Romagna until the end of 2008. In 2009 he enrolled in his current PhD program and conducted research about housing and residential design and learning environments. He published articles about those topics and participated to research projects like “Il futuro del costruito” – about the regeneration of a social housing neighbourhood – with a workshop and an exhibition at SAIEnergia, Bologna. He’s also a teaching assistant in the architectural design studio lead by Professor L. Gelsomino. In the period January-June 2010 he’s a visiting scholar at the University of Washington, College of Built Environments, Seattle, to conduct a research about child-friendly environments.


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