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Making spaces for play: on new suburban and town developments



This report summarises new work which investigates (through observational analysis) how children and adults use outdoor communal space. It looks in detail at play (a proxy for overall social activity) and relates this to a simple mapping exercise that scores four physical characteristics of new developments. Though only a pilot exercise the methodology shows promise as a way of predicting, at an early stage in planning, future social outcomes. Where beneficial features are absent, social activity and play may be a small fraction of that observed on the developments with the higher mapping scores.

Summary of content

Explains the focus on play, its importance to the development of children, and the importance of outdoor communal space.

Developments studied
Introduces the seven developments included in the study – all are medium density suburban/town developments.

Outlines the mapping process. Four maps:
Map 1 Amount of accessible shared space
Map 2 Access to external space
Map 3 Networks
Map 4 Street design for social interaction

Explain how these are scored and provides a summarising chart

Observing play
Outlines the approach to observational analysis of outdoor communal space, including measurement of:
Necessary activity eg passing through
Optional activities eg hanging out/domestic chores
Social activities eg talking, observing, play and supervising play

Plots social activity against mapping scores. Considers in particular:
Overall social activity and overall play
Unsupervised play
Extended periods of play
Independent mobility

Concluding thoughts and further reading