Thursday, January 22, 2009

The housing development that kids built

How do we make cities, neighborhoods, and housing developments more livable? Well, start with asking the inhabitants. And who spends more time living, exploring, and being active in the physical space than children?

A construction cooperative in a northern Italian town decided to explore this idea the early 1990's. They wanted to create space for inhabitants, rather than making habitations, and wanted real participation in the project with an actual sense of community as the goal. Architects and engineers worked with nursery school children on building models, drawing, and discussing what they would want in an ideal house.

Completed a couple of years ago, the Coriandoline housing development has 20 homes organized around a center plaza. Each building has a theme, including the "castle-house" and the house with "the-roof-held-up-by-trees." Features such as kid-height windows beneath the regular window sills and space for playing built in the communal landscape helps make Coriandoline livable for residents of all sizes. Garages are buried in mounds and hills with play areas above and monster-like murals on the garage-cave opening. Read more about Coriandoline, and listen to a podcast from Radio Netherlands Worldwide.

(Photo courtesy of Radio Netherlands Worldwide)

As a society we continue to underestimate the role of the built environment in defining our behavior and lifestyles. Many of the great failures of our suburban communities to sustain healthy livestyles and livable communities stem from honest, well-intentioned efforts to plan responsibly. Maybe we need to throw out the old manuals and let the kids have a go at it...

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