The Dimensions of Childhood in Modern Architecture: From Urban Scales to Domestic Spaces


According to many authors, architecture is more than meets the eye: it is the image of a certain historical, cultural, and social context, as it reflects the ideals and longings of the society by which it is built and inhabited. In the eventful years of the 20th century, amid a context punctuated by the horrors of war, society gradually began to revolve around children, their rights, wellbeing, and education. Seen as an innocent figure, the child represented hope in a better future, for today’s children would be tomorrow’s society. This change of attitude toward childhood will therefore be evident in both practical and theoretical forms of architecture and urban planning, ranging from the large scale of the city, to the intimate scale of domestic space. Spaces for play, such as playgrounds and playrooms; the walking distance at which a school is placed from home and, inside the dwelling, spaces for social interaction and introspection – these all consist of evidence of how childhood started integrating the discourse of modern society and, thus, of architecture. By looking into the works of architects from this period – like Ernst May’s siedlungen in Frankfurt, Ernö Goldfinger and his exhibitions, Aldo Van Eyck and his playgrounds in Amsterdam, to name a few –, one can unveil the various interpretations of childhood in architecture, never forgetting that the architect who thinks the city also designs the home, the latter “being regarded as the very centre of town planning concerns and the focal point of all measures”.

Author Information
Rita Monteiro Vieira, Faculdade de Arquitectura da Universidade do Porto, Portugal

Paper Information
Conference: CITY2016
Stream: Geography and Landscape/Urban Planning, Architecture and Design

This paper is part of the CITY2016 Conference Proceedings (View)
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Posted by James Alexander Gordon