UStED CONSORTIA CORE TEAM: Ian Simkins
|Current PhD research:|
development of an approach and methods to reveal the place experiences
of primary school aged children
The everyday local environment of incidental spaces routinely encountered by children is an important contributor to their social development and general health and well-being. There remains, however, a significant loss of connection between children and outdoor settings and this is increasingly raised as an issue that may have long term implications. It is now recognised as important that the voices of children should play a pivotal role in the arrangement and content of their spatial realm and that achieving this will require new ways to understand children’s notions of place and how this contributes to individual and social development.
The overall aim of this doctoral research is to develop methodologies that can help reveal spatial aspects of the place experience of primary school aged children in ways relevant to landscape design decision-making. To achieve this the study focuses on the ‘school run’ as an example of a type of spatial continuity that children experience routinely and frequently and that over time can have a significant impact on how they come to understand and recognise their neighbourhood, its wider setting and their own sense of location and that of places important to them within it (school, home and friends, for example). In this context the school run is conceptualised as a largely sequential mosaic of incidental spaces through which they pass by various means most days. A key objective of the research is to find ways to see and read the experiential dimensions of these spaces and to use this capability to gain insight into children’s perceptions of their neighbourhood and its vicinity.
The origins of the study lie in a programme of practice based fieldwork to improve school grounds begun in 1999. These projects variously required some form of participation to meet funding objectives, but were often perceived to be either object, function or budgetary driven with a lack of emphasis on how children would actually experience the places that were being made for them. A tendency to overlook, undervalue, or at extremes conceal the experiential content of outdoor place making has long been recognised as a limitation in approaches to environmental planning and design and it is frequently held responsible for producing solutions that lack social relevance and human value. Attempts to overcome this have spawned a multiplicity of participative methods, consultative practices and so called community empowerment in planning and design processes. There are many notable successes, of course, but far too often well meaning intentions follow a pattern of pseudo-participation where the participants are assumed to have a role of recipients of professional opinion and knowledge rather than being a fundamental part of an informed reciprocal process of learning, exploration and development. Against this background this study sets out to try to establish the foundations for deeper levels of participant engagement recognising the act of participation itself as fundamental to the process of successful place making.
Simkins, I.M. and Thwaites, K. (2008) Revealing Hidden Dimensions of Place Experience in Primary School Aged Children. Landscape Research, 33:5, 531-546.
Simkins. I.M. (2007) Listening to and understanding the voices of young children in the planning and design process, in Urban Sustainability through Environmental Design, eds: Thwaites. K., Porta. S. and Romice. O. Book commissioned by Spon Press, London.
Thwaites.K. and Simkins.I.M. (2007) Experiential Landscape: revealing hidden dimensions of people-place relations, in Urban Sustainability through Environmental Design, eds: Thwaites. K., Porta. S. and Romice. O. Book commissioned by Spon Press, London.
and Simkins.I.M. (2007) Experiential Landscape: An approach to people,
space and place. Book commissioned by Spon Press, London. (available from:
this link to order.
Thwaites, K. and Simkins, I.M. (July 2008) Experiential Landscape: Approaches to Revealing Place Experience in Primary School Aged Children. Presentation at the: Children's Perspective in Environmental Perception Thematic Session. IAPS 20th International Conference, Rome, Italy.
Thwaites K and Simkins I.M. (April 2007) Experiential Landscape: an approach to people, place and space. Invited key note presentation as part of the RSAW Spring School 2007 (Royal Society of Architects in Wales, in association with the Landscape Institute in Wales). Portmerion, Wales, UK.
Thwaites K and Simkins I.M. (April 2007) Experiential Landscape: reading experiential characteristics in residential settings. Paper and workshop presentation at the Housing Studies Conference 2007, York, UK.
Thwaites K and Simkins I.M. (March 2007) Experiential Landscape: an approach to people, place and space. Invited key note presentation as part of the 'Seven mirrors' conference organised by the Centre for Place and Learning, Stockholm, Sweden.
Thwaites K and Simkins I.M. (November 2006) Experiential Landscape: an approach to people, place and space. Invited presentation as part of the 'Landmark' lecture series, The University of Sheffield, UK.
Thwaites K and Simkins I.M. (November 2006) Experiential Landscape: an approach to people, place and space. Invited presentation as part of 'The Experience' lecture series, Manchester Metropolitan University, UK.
Simkins I.M. and Thwaites K. (September 2006) Place experience of primary school children: revealing the spatial dimensions. Presentation at the Children, Youth and Environments meeting, IAPS 19th International Conference, Alexandria, Egypt.
Thwaites K and Simkins I.M. (September 2006) Experiential Landscape: exploring the spatial dimensions of human emotional fulfilment in outdoor open space. Joint paper and presentation IAPS 19th International Conference, Alexandria, Egypt.
Thwaites K and Simkins I.M. (September 2006) Experiential Landscape: reading experiential characteristics in residential settings. Joint paper and presentation at the Housing Network Symposium, IAPS 19th International Conference, Alexandria, Egypt.
and Thwaites K.
(July 2006) Developing tools and techniques for revealing spatial dimensions
of place experience in primary school aged children. Seminar presentation
and paper at: "Planning and designing healthy public outdoor spaces
for young people in the 21st century" conference hosted by the faculty
of the Built Environment, University of the West of England, Bristol.
Simkins I.M. (March 2006) Revealing spatial dimensions of place experience in primary school aged children. Presentation at: Recovering Landscape Workshop. Department of Archaeology, University of York.
Thwaites.K. Helleur.E. and Simkins.I.M. (2004) Restorative Urban Landscape Settings: Exploring the Spatial Dimensions of Human Emotional Fulfilment in Urban Open Space. Paper and conference presentation at the international Open Space: People Space conference, Edinburgh, 27-29 October 2004. view paper
and Thwaites.K. (2004) The Spatial Experience of Primary School Aged Children:
The Development of an Open Space Design Language. Paper and conference
presentation at the international Open Space: People Space conference,
Edinburgh, 27-29 October 2004.
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