Designing with Children

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Busy times with our heads deep in data. We've been preparing papers and getting going with two forthcoming books for publication with Routledge (more on these shortly).

More particularly, we are about to have our final dissemination event to be held at 6.30 pm on 1st December 2015. Spatial design practitioners, students, those interested in wider areas of children's involvement in spatial design are all welcome to attend. Tickets are free but must be booked via eventbrite.

We will be at The Gallery, 75 Cowcross Street London for this early evening event and drinks reception. We are delighted that a number of architects and practitioners involved in our early interviews are attending and we also welcome the four architects from our case studies for discussion:

Susanne Hofmann, die Baupiloten
Barbary Kaucky, erectarchitecture
Marianthi Liapi, Transformable Intelligent Environments Laboratory, Technical University of Crete
Dan Morrish, Wilderness Wood

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This week we were excited to host Susanne Hofmann (die Baupiloten), Dan Morrish and Emily Charkin (Building for Families, Wilderness Wood) at our second event for dissemination of research findings. We spent this cold Winter's morning discussing their approaches to engaging children in design process, and after lunch our brave snow-defying audience got to try out the methods that Susanne, Dan and Emily use in their workshops with children. These hands-on sessions included exploring preferences for spatial atmospheres by creating dreamworld collages, and constructing a snow sledge from cardboard tubes.

For those who have missed the event, you are welcome to watch the talks and discussions at the following links:

- Rosie Parnell and Jo Birch: Introduction to the research project

- Susanne Hofmann: Atmosphere as participatory design strategy

- Emily Charkin and Dan Morrish: Involving all ages in the process of making a building

- Jo Birch: Early research findings

This full day seminar was organised in association with SSoA Children's Architecture Unit and the Centre for the Study of Childhood and Youth, welcoming a wide array of audience from several universities, architectural design practices and Sheffield City Council.

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Model feedback station

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Modules station

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Children's shoe-box story

Having only recently returned from our first case study visit to Köln, we are still buzzing with excitement! We observed and recorded the second and last design workshop run by two die Baupiloten architects, each of whom worked at a different ‘station’, or design activity context, with six children aged 4-9 in groups of two.

The architects had already captured children’s key ideas for the restaurant at the first workshop, which translated into two big design themes: entrance and mirrors. At the first station, the children took part in a feedback session. They were presented a model of the restaurant whose design was based on the shoe-box stories that they had created at the first workshop. This was an opportunity for the children to link what they saw back to their initial ideas and explore ways in which they can use the restaurant spaces. The second station ('modules station') was a hands-on activity, where they experimented with fabrics, mirrors, components and light to end up with an imaginative structure reflecting their own ‘dreamworlds’, as one of the architects commented.

As it happens with real life research, however, it was us, researchers, who took photographs and video-recorded the above activities. We saw the architects and the children concentrating together, telling stories, having a laugh, moving around, and playing with paper figurines, which they placed on the restaurant model and structure, often defying the gravity law. Whilst the two of us took on a paparazzi role photographing all movement and action taking place, our third researcher interviewed each one of the children in a camping tent (couldn’t be more adventurous), where they enacted designer-child interactions with toy figures and commented on the photos that we took.

What’s next? We’ll keep you posted.. For now, a warm thanks to die Baupiloten architects and the participating children for allowing us a glimpse into their design worlds, children’s teachers and carers, as well as Le Buffet personnel at Karstadt for their hospitality.

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