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CI llLDR[\. 5 C.-";\·!R()"i~I[.~TS QUARTERLY.

.... '?' r:".'l e >lQ! C-"J,C", > FJWHor.mentS Quar,erly

The Young Child's Experience of Space and Child Care Center

Design: A Practical Meditation

David Kennedy
Child and Family Studies
.\rorthern Michi<zan Unit'ersit

The physlCal, perceptual, and cognitive differences between adults and young chlldn'
have significant Implications fur the deSign or child care centers. This ;InK!\.' cC'n<itdL'r-
fl rst how architecture intluences child ren', development, then the d ifiL'rl'm,l." b.:-: \\ L'L'r
how young children and adults experience and use space and then th.:- prol:i.:-m l):
dC~lgnlng colle....tlve <pace for young chIldren that is responsive to those dIfferences. Fill!
broad, quahtat,\,c characlen'-tlcs of optimal ,htld care centers are id\.'ntiflcd: that 1!1,'~' r\.'
omehke, have an unfInished character, have an open relationship to the natural \,'\HIJ,
JnU proVIde an overall vanety and balance of kinds of spaces.

It IS one of the mysteries of human development characteristics of Ii ved experlenCC-SenSM\'

that when we get old enough to reflect on what it affective and volitional F'<1ttL'rns, ,1
is like to be young chlldren, we hardly remember "polymorphous" form of se\,uahty, palterns 0i II'..'
beIng young children ourselves. This amnesia of the material en"ironment, appr0'lChes to SP,Kl'
about our childhoods is engra....ed not only in our and equipment, to range and pilthwily-th,ll
Fersonal \'iew of our own past, but In 0ur adults both recognize and find nliC'(1. This raper 1-;
relationships with the very young. Although we about those differences-which, In Y011n~
recognize them immediately and unconditionally children anyway, seem to be uni\'ers,ll clcr(I~'
as our own, \'I.'e face them across an abvss of cultural, socioeconory1ic, and far.1illill systL'ms-
memory and experience. and about their brOad impliciltions t,lr IhL'
architecture of child care cenlcr',.l II I~ neccsScHY
\ll.'rlcau-Ponty (196-+, p. 137) referred to children to Identify these differences a:1d c0nsldcr thL'1
as "polymorphs." "It is," he said, "true both that design implications because cldults gL'nerallL'
adult functions are already represented in the design and build environments in the IInJge 0t
child, and that they don't have the same meaning their own experience of time, space, and
as they do in adults. [It is like) a game of chess: relationship. They arc egocentric in this regard,
All ~he pieces are there from the beginning, and in the classic Piagetian scn~ of not being able to
yet the game changes their arrangement." And be anything else. Those adults, however, wh0
Schactel (1959, p. 285), in a classic statement, presume to plan envir::>nments specifically for
explained "childhood amnesia" as a result of adult young children are in a peculiar position: If they
memory structures being "unsuitable to are, as Schactel claims, "not even capable of
accommodate early childhood experience." The imagining what the child experiences:' how <He
adult's mode of experiencing has changed, he they to imagine architectural space-especially
claimed, to such an extent that he or she "is not the communal space of child care centers-for
even capable of imagining what the child such a creature, one both like and profoundly
ex pet;ences." unlike themselves? The importance of such
planning should not be underestimated, for in a
YOU"lg children see the world from two to three society where childcare is increasingly
fee~ at:.:ve the ground, instead of five to six feet. collectivized, the c.haracter of that communcll
Th~lr sense of time does not seem to be the same. space will be 0.1e major vehicle of social
The differ:?nces in cognitive and perceptual reproduction, and contribute to the formillion of n
modes an~ less obvious, but their behaviors signal modal adult personality.

Requests for reprints should be sent to David Kennedy, Child As any artifact reflects its artificer, archilectllrill
and Family Studies, Northern Michigan University, space talks back to us and tells liS how we sec Clnd
Marquette, MI 49855-5366,


think. Typical school space for chtldren, with Its lifespan-that is, <l~ a tutur~ adult. Thl~ I~
fanatical. impoverished regularities, tells us that necessary because "adult" ilnd (hd-i lr,'
\\'e see children as basically irregular and chaotic mutually necessary; "child" can onl~' be \1L'l1n\'d 111
beings, ra w matenal out of which the product relation to "adult:' and \'isa versa. E\'C'I"Y child :-
. ddult" IS made, through an intensive pattern of directed towards "growing up" \\'ith ,1 kln\i \'
Intcrdctlons whose major characteristic is rigorous amor ,fali, and e\'erv. adult carries cln·(,
denial ot the unique form of children's child, lurking," as Ortcg.1 y Gel ......L·t ~.lld In Ih,
('\Fx·ricnc.:-. It tells liS that childhood, a temporary d~pth of his eyes" (1Y'\~. p. 131). I hl~ '111.11111,~
and a lesser condition, is not \....orthy of its own our search for an optimJ.l archltectllr;~ f('f th\·
,Hchllecture. School architecture seems to imply young child: it must be not only rcSpcnSl\'L', 1''11
that childhood should not be "indulge"; that the educati\'e. It must Inter.let with the child In .1 \\ ....
\\',lY we become adults is through acting like that both lends itsclf tn Ihc rhllJ's Ch.H.Ktl'!'I~I"·
aJlI1t~, which in turn seems to imply that children manner of being in the world. and .11 ....., dr.lI\'" iii
must be made into adults through behavioral child forward, through childhood tLl\\',H,j ,11'
raIning, as opposed to the assumption that one optimal adulthood.
ypically becomes an adult in the natural course
("If evcnts. But what is an optimal adulthood? That'llh"qll'n
must be asked by those designing sp,w:.' t,1r (htl,l
Although school architecture is a lamentable care centers, and will be tdken up belOh', Ft1r thL'
monument to adult egocentrism, those of us who moment, it may be defined as an adulthood Ih.lI
presume to be decentered in this regard are not is in a hermeneutical relationship With Its O\\'n
necessarily brought any closer to beIng able to childhood (Lippitz, 1986; Misgeld, 19R5), i.e., In an
Imagine what the young child experiences. interpretive relationship, characterlzcd both by J
HO\\'ever, sensitivity to how the lived experience certain distance and a drive for mutualitv and
of children is not being served architecturally can understanding. But even granting this rJthl'r
sharpen our interpretation of how it might be. circular definition, how Ciln architectural dcsicn
Ve learn to become both archaeologists of our presu mc to influence this relationshi p? BetMl'
own lived experience and interpreters of the that question can be addressed, it is nCCL'sc;,lrY to
experience of children. We work for a "fusion of reflect on how architectural design iniluenccc;
horizons" (Gadamer, 1975, p. 273), a dialogue lived experience; and then on the differentl,1]
·....·ith children's lived experience, which results in relationship between the lived exp('rience oi
Increased understanding. It is on this basis that children and of adults.
we can then approach with more confidence the
design of architectural space that is responsive to
voung children'S lived exp€rience. ARCHITECTURE AND EXPERIENCE

But this docs not finish the matter. There are any Architecture, as Yi-Fu Tuan (1977, p. 116) has
number of ways in which architectural space can explained, actually defines and clarifies lived
respond to lived experience, whether a child's or experience. Architectural space gives "insidc" and
an adult's-from the prison, the yurt, a Victorian "outside"-which are already given in the body-
house, to the typical classroom or adventure world matrix of perceptual awarencss-a
playground. Authoritarian architecture responds consummate, habitable expression, and thus
to its inhabitants, but its response is coercive, brings them to a clarity that was only inchO<lte
domineering, and totaliZing. Therefore, even if we before. Not only does "the body respond ... to
were, with scientific precision, capable of such basic figures of design as enclosure and
knowing what the child experiences, it would not exposure, verticality and horizontality, mass,
necessarily imply a way to respond to that volume, interior spaciousness, and light," but as
experience. Environments that cater to childhood language does for thought, the built environment
experience the way certain environments cater to refines and defines the otherwise "diffuse and
adult lust, for example, -"Playland," etc.-are, fleeting" spatial world, and thereby sensibility
somehow, as far from reality as the traditional itself. [t defines lived sensations for us by
classroom. So we must add to this inquiry a providing them a context through which they arc
developmental dimension, which obliges us to see lived. To build is to "establish a world in the
the child from the perspective of the whole midst of primeval disorder" (Tuan, 197i, p. 104),

I: also "demarcates and intensifies the forms oi and the self ddi ned The h,'lu:.l' I' t hl'
:;,.)clal life" Architectural space works either to hearth, the (("lmm0n g,ounJ i'l 1110..'
eliy the world of social roles and relationships psyche's growth and transform~tlPn,
'l' g., the authority figure has m()re space, and
ets the \'iew) or to transform them in some way. All of this is particularly significant \\'hl'n arr!l,·,j
The house functions as a "text encoding the rules to young children. It would seem t("l tndl\.Jk
(Ii beha\'lor and even a whole world view" (Tuan, architecture for young children carrit::i \.'\en m0r\.'
1917, pp. 112, 116). iconic power than it docs for adults. As mu,-h
childhood autobiography (CC'e, 19~-I, p. 1~:-) ,lnd
Architectural space teaches as well; to a our own personal arche010gies Sh0\\'. 'h(,ll~l' [('r
nonliterate people the house may be not only a the child is cosmos in intensifIed and ~\'mb(llt(,
shelter but also a ritual place and the locus of form, a world whose ordl.'r "t('u(he:" rL,\" ..ll" ,1thl
economic activity_ Such a house can com- instructs," If architectural spuce IS m0r,'
municate ideas even more effectively than can interlocutive, speaks more 10udly, In J nwrL'
ritual. [ts symbols form a system and are vividly educational voice, to young children th,ln Ii'
rcal to the iamily members as they pass through adults, then this underscores the imr0r1.1ncL' ClI
the dIfferent stages of life. thinking carefully and refiectl\''''Y ,1bollt thL'
spaces in which groups of children spend up to
It is worth remembering that young children are a twelve hours a day. We arc ch~llenged to
"nonliterate people" and carry the identifying imagine environments that "teach, reveal. and
marks of adult nonJiterate mental culture, Ong's instruct," if only because we know Ih"t in default
descriptions of the noetic modes of primary oral of our imagining them, they will instruct anyw<lY
culture are also true in some ways of the young and contribute to the kinds of adults \\'h0, hanng
child (1982).2 Although our young children are internalized their characteristics and effects, ore
placed in a highly literate culture and arc rapidly likely to perpetuate them-whether Ih"y .Ire
internaliZing the psychological modes of literacy, authoritarian or dialogical. But if dialogIcal. In
they still inhabit the organic, personalistic, oral dialogue with what? This brings us to th\.'
cosmos which Ong associates both with question of how young children's livl"j
nonliterate peoples and with the ancient and experience is different from adults',
medie\'al \vorlds. 3 As in nonliterate cultures, the
house is the young child's first definitive text,
\\'hich forms and instructs lived experience. THE YOUNG CHILD'S LIVED EXPERIE:,\CE
At its best, architectural space evokes the original
human boundaried space of paradise. Through its It seems reasonable to assume that the cxistcnll,ll
internal richness, and the security of its space of the young child is more like infant space
boundaries, it protects against danger, excess, and than adult space. Infant space is probably not
indeterminacy from both within and without, It "space" in the sense in which we understand the
transforms space into place, i.e., into a space that term, but a person: Space is originally given in
has acquired "definition and meaning" (Tuan, the person of the caregiver, and any real topos it
1977, p, 136). It is "primal" space, in that it is has is in this form. It is fundamentally personJI.
"fused," or "joined" with the person for whom it is interlocutive, and interactive, a multisensorial
meaningful; it has become incorporated into the space of action, which is as oral, tactile, and
person's reflexivity. The house has long been kinesthetic as it is visual. It is the space' nf an
recognized in depth psychology-in dream work, object reached for to connect with, to introject
or example, and in young children's drawings, as through the mouth, or explore synaesthetically,
well as in lived experience-as an image of the Or it is the space of an object from whose
self. As Marc 0977, p. 67) describes it: threatening presence we shrink.

Its [the house's] reality is durable and A space that is alive and personal is quite
tangible: the place whence all human different from the idealized, visually dominJted
activities have emerged. It provides the space which we find reified in adult architecture.
necessary base from which consciousness Typical Western adult space is static, segmented,
is formed, consolidated and expanded, and schematized. It is a space of abstraction,

..;cparation, removal, of an overwhelming Adults also interact continuallv dnJ ,h n,lTlllt.l:i,

"Qlcctl\·it:-·, \,'hich docs a\..; ay with time and the with objects 10 space, but they h,l\'C k,lrnl'd t,) \.1..
~ody. This space is reified in our public so in order to separate from thcm, tt' ~ut th·~ ~)
.Hchttecturc, which is so vast. regularized, and aside, and to transform them t(IT S(lme kind ('I l h
isassociated from touch and kinesthetics that It (Heideggcr, 1977). This IS, to be slire. a lorm "
,lssumes a sort of demonic spirituality (Sommer, introjection. bu tit f011l1\vS much nilrr<'\\'l'r Ii nl'<;
--l). But if we accept the normative psycho- In a much more systl.'matlc w"y. 1 hroll~~h
Jnalytic premise that "original" is also "originary," looking, adults can get enough of an Idea ab<'llt
hen through an archeology of our own adult the properties of almost any 0bj,'ct th,1t thc;' dc,
perception, \\IC find the personal, interactive space not fecI compelled to touch It eXcl'pt tor Srl."'ClilC
uf mfancy underlying the genetic and cultural predetermined purposes. Things havc thl'!r
strata of adulthood, and still the basis of our places. For the young child, on the 0thcr h,H1,i. th\.,
mtcrlocutive reaction to anv architecture. In the function of the object is largely the pk',1SllTC , t tho
originary condition, as Macmurray's 0961, p. 80> interactIOn itself.
classic formulation puts it, "It is the whole Other
that is personal," and it is through a process of The space of the young child is mythlcdl. In thc
depersonalization that we eventually arrive at the sense des< -,bed by Merlcau-Ponty (1CJ6~, p. ::~:;)
concept of an inanimate object. Thus, for the when he speaks at "a mythical space In whIch
Infant, and for all of us on a fundamental level, directions and pOSitions are determined by the
perception is a being-addressed by a living world. residence in it of great affective entitIes." These
affective entities are, as we have seen, persons
Although the visual, as Erikson 0977, p. 46) has first-the primary space of the caregiver-then
pointed out, is chief among the senses in "the the primal space of the home, which is affectively
establishment of a rudimentary sense of reality in determined by the human presences that suffuse
the infant," it has a different valence within the it. Lewin 0935, p. 79) has called the young
overall intemal balance of the infant's sensorium. child's space "psychobiological," in that It I~
Vision becomes more powerful than the other "quaSi-physical, quaSi-social, and quasi-mental"--
senses; it serves to get the infant in touch with the a systematic field of relationships of dynamic
object, in order to encounter it with all the senses. tension in continuous transformation. Casslrer
.-\s Lewin (935) has argued, the object is one (1955, pp. 84-85), calls the originary space
polarity of a field which includes the body. This mythic as well, and describes it as positional: i[
body-world field is dynamic, relational, and has no abstractly determined constant apMt from
Interconnected. The young child's sense of the one's place in it. "E\'ery point, e\'cry clement
character of space shrinks and expands according possesses ... a kind of tonality of its own ... a
to the motivational, affective valences of the field. special distinguishing character which cannot be
Space is not only alive and personal, but described in general concepts, bu t which is
libidinized: It is charged negatively or positively immediately experienced as such." [t is
with the attractiveness or balefulness of the "distinguished from the abstract space of pure
object, which beckons or repels. cognition by [the] foundation of individual
feeling on which it rests and from which it seems
Even the lived space of the four, five, and six- inseparable."
year-old is, relative to the adult, quite
undifferentiated between body and environment. The adult develops, through typification (Hart,
In Lewinian terms, the field is not articulated. 1979; Piaget &: Inhelder, 1967; Schutz &:
There is still high and primitive integration. The Luckmann, 1973), a neu tral space, approachable
relationship is what Merleau-Ponty (1968, p.l38) by a coordination of perspectives, the "view from
calls "chiasmic." "Where," he asks, "are we to put above." For the young child this kind of space is
the limit between the body and the world, since already on the horizon of experience, part of the
the world is flesh?" The world which I am placed telos of development. But it is still linked to
in forms a unity with me the perceiver. Since it is persons, and to the personal aspects of the
a part of my awareness and I am alive, there is no environment. The presence or absence of
part of the field of perception that I could with significant persons changes the total structure of
any final certainty call "dead," "inanimate," or the psycho-spatial environment, especially its
reduce to some lesser level of being. feeling of security or insecurity (Lewin, 1935).

J p':'chologlCal environment that is affecti\'ely artist and (hild, somethi ng emerge,; Irrm t: 1 _
'll",lre', the :'oung child tends to inhabit the edges engagement \...·ith the envirc'1nment. cl !='rlldlld 111,,(
,,~ hl~ or her Itfespace, and these edges are is relatively unexp<'ctl'd. because It has e'm('n~l',t
~tc1ntl: ('xpanding as the child responds to the through intcracti ve ria y tha t a \lows ltlr ere,) In l,'
beckoning challenges of the world. The spatial outcomcs. The artifact \\'hich ('merges frC'm the'
1"'.'1 r(lnment Invites engagement and interaction is a representation of the CIl,'t'1l1nh'r It
:r.ln~l(lrmJtl\.'C action (Suransky, 1982), It is not a part oi the standing reSl'T\·C'-thl· t'lIt,\'1ne
,'j-.llkngcs the young child to "excorporate" self in of strategies of domination-but d s:·ml',..I\ l'1:'
Interaction wIth objects, and in this interaction, transformation. It stands In a different IllC,lmn~
th' (hilJ constructs and discovers the meanings relationship to the en\·IT()nmt'nl. It rl'~I~t~ th~'
lIt ohll'ctS (Vandenberg, 1971). Thi ngs call out, status of standing reseT\'e, it is ··un-cnfr,lme"lbJco.
nil!, as with adults, to be overcome and put aSide, a transformation of the cnvironml'nl.
bllt to be played with-the stairs call out to climb,
he ball to throw, the empty container to be filled, I n this cond i tion of "pu re a ssi mila tlO n.· sracc
the filled container to be emptied, the puddle to becomes the boundaries of the self, ior the world
be splashed in, ....·ide-open spaces to run in, etc. of dramatic play is at the command of the
\loreover, it is through this interaction that imagination. Winnicott's <1971, p. 51) notion of
J.Jifcrentiation of self from world comes about: transitional or "potential" space expresses this
TIHoul;h "open communion," or "living directly very well:
Into the world" (Vandenberg, 1971, p. 60), the
bllundaries between subject and object take This area of playing is not i:1Ol'r pS~'chlC
hare. reality. It is outside the individual, but it
is not the external world ... Into this play
The :'oung child's project is to master the world area the child gathers objects or
through parlicipation in its play, resulting in that phenomena from external re,llily and
relative independence from the world which uses these in the sen'ice of ... Inner t1r
chtlrtcrizes adulthood. But while independence personal reality... In playing, the child
may be the unconscious aim of the child's project, manipulates external phenomena in the
11l.·r project is distinct from that of adults. In service of the dream and invests chllsen
Heldegger's (1977, p. 21) words, the adult's external phenomena with dream meaning
prOject is to "pursue and entrap nature as a and feeling.
calculable coherence of forces," what he calls
"enframing." This is the project of a being already The phenomenon of transitional space points to a
fully separated from nature, The young child fundamental difference between adults and
plays in a unity with nature, and through that young children in the balance between inner and
play, separation develops. The environment outer spatiality. Perhaps we could say that
provides the aliment for this process, which, waking space and dream space are less separated
although it is characterized by "open in young children than in adults. In the dream,
commu nion," is in that very communion a space and time both "happen to" us and arc
movement of "primal distancing" (Vandenberg, completely self-produced, The dream space has a
1971, p. 61), an equilibration process resulting in mysterious, inchoate, symbolic function, full of
increasing separation. One is increasingly able to meaning. The tower, the winding staircase, the
put things aside, to use only the part that can be building with innumerable rooms through which
regulated and secured-stored, distributed, one wanders-all are the self as much as they are
placed in reserve for future use. In adults, the object.
mastery becomes the ability to resist the call of the
environment to play, and to shape it from a Dramatic play could almost be described as
distance for what Heidegger (977) called the "dream work." It requires and builds a sense of
standing reserve. time and space apart, a protected milieu (Kel1y-
Byrne, 1989), in order for that existential location
The project of the young child resembles that of to emerge, which Winnicott (19il, p. 50) describes
the artist. The artist may be said to be the adult as on the "line between the subjective and that
who has resisted what Suransky (1982) calls the which is objectively perceived" ~r, as Huizinga
"false dichotimization" of work and play. For both (1955, p. 10) has described it that "temporMv

\,'orlJ \\'1thln the ordinary world, dedicated to the of the growing schism bctwern r-cnplL' ,tnd thll
!'C'rl,lrmance or an aCI apart." objects, and by extenSIon bellq:en p\.0riL' ,1nl
thl'ir eO\';rcmmcnts (Arl'ndt. I q:;t». Thl.' In\\lkrn
experience is one of a cumulatIve (If a ~n:-..:
DE\'ELOP\1E:'\TAL IQEALS A.,.o STYlES OF of place In our buill en\'lronments whIch (l(IS
:\BSTRACTIO:"." recursively to further reinforc\? 01lr sllbic(t-()I.~jC(
alienatIOn. This alienal10n can be ,1tmbllteJ ttl .1
"l' nOI" H'turn to the question: How do \,·:e number of ontological, histortcal, JnJ 5"(1.11
i011agJne architectural spacc--€specially collective causes: The separation necessary III (pntlucr .J
~pace-i(lr the young child, a ~ing both like and nature perceived as threatening, \\'hdhcr the
profoundl;, unlike us? The answer depends on black plague or the AmNtcdn wIIJ('rlll.'SS; th"
(lur Ideas of chtldhood and adullhood, and the legacy of Platonic and Aristotelian (mtnlngll.''':; tn\.'
nature of the transformation lhat separates them. spirit/body split in the Christian trcldlllOn; I hI.'
E"cry cducator and every designer of educational reflexive influence of technolngy ,Ill
.ettings has ideas about these, implicit or consciousness; the reproduction of SOCi,ll
(Ilherwise. Such ideas are normative, and vary hierarchy and domination in an i1~e oi hIgh
ilcrOSS ti me a nd space-every age and el'ery technology, etc. As Western Ii terJture ,It kasl
culture has its Ideal adult. Notions of the ideal since the early 19th century demonstrates, th\.'
adult arc in the process of dramatic change in the subject-world separation of modern Western
western industrialized countries. Confronted consciousness is haunted by a sense of a lost
I,'ith the growing possibility of planet death, unity, which for the overdeveloped 0r SCparJlcd
adults who are still "in touch" with the ego, manifests demonically as a "hl'art ot
environment on a fundamental level are darkness," as well as a nostalgia for childhood.
constructed as an ideal. It is precisely this quali ty
\,'hich I have indicated is characteristic of infants Given this separation, how do we design
and young children. This suggests that children's communities for young children which encourage
environments and educational program be them to grow into adults whose style nf
constructed to foster the conservation rather than abstraction is not cut off from the subject-object
the atrophy of this quality, thus encouraging the unity of the early years, and the creative. pla;,t'ul.
de"elopment of responsible adults in the sense of zone of the transitional space?
being responsive to their environments and
therefore less liable to maim or pollute it. That goal was actually posited for modernity
almost two hundred years ago. For the
How then, assuming we support this ideal of a Romantics, in revolt against Enlightenment
new sense of responsibility (Jonas, 1984), do we epistemology, the task of education was to make
build environments that encourage children to it possible for the human race to, as Coleridge put
grow into such adults? There are two basic it, "carryon the feelings of childhood into the
variables to consider, one psychological and one powers of manhood" (Plotz, 1979, p. 69). For
cultural. Psychologically, the reality is that young Emerson, the child was the "perpetual Messiah,"
children are involved in a distancing process: for Wordsworth a "Mighty Prophet" (p. 68) of a
They are replacing the immediate with the form of consciousness that is not in dangerous
mediated, with the typified "stock of knowledge" separation from its object. As Plotz (p. 68)
(Schutz & Luckmann, 1973); the totality of summarizes it:
concrete experience with the universality of the
language-<:ontrolled concept; the wholeness of the The romantics hold human perfection to
perceptual image with the inclusiveness of the abide in that adult who remains most in
abstract, logical, operational structure (Piaget, touch with his childhood life, who enters,
1969). That is the young child's developmental in DeQuincey's fine phrase, "upon the
dialectic: Experience itself results in more whole of his natural inheritance." Such
articulated, differentiated, and hierarchically continuity of consciousness and capacity
organized mediating structures. is crucial to adult fullness of being. To be
able to grow up without destroying or
Culturally, the reality seems to be that Westerners maiming the child in oneself is to become
in the late 20th century are confronting the effects the best sort of adult.


Ii the child IS in a continual state of HOME, I~STITUTIO~,A~D HABITABLE

transformation toward abstraction and subject- SPACE
world separation, the Romantic ideal aims for a
lund of education-and therefore a kind of Such an environment would, fIrst. rrcscnt ,1n
en\'ironment-that gl;lides this series of trans- existential space that is habitable. The best modl'l
formatIOns toward a more optimal separation, or for habitable space is the home. lang (1983. p.
.,,;hat Kegan (1982) has referred to as "subject- 202) descnbes inha~ltlOb as "the eS5Cnlial teature
object truce." Assuming that the modem subject- of subjective life ... an act of tran:,f0Trn,ltI0n
object truce is not an end-state. but a cultural- where space becomes place." He refers to the
hIstorical product, an adaptation to a certain home as "our second body." In the h0rn\.',
senes of circumstances, we must dare to assume "everything ... has been tr,lnsmlllL'd thine'"
further that different circumstances will force have truly become annexed to Ollr bmi\', an,j
urther adaptations. The current circumstance of incorporated." The child is typlc,l11y ,1SS(ICI.lkd
an increasing threat of planet death, then, calls for with the home because the h(1me i~ ..1 place III
further adaptation, in the form of a style of subject~bject fusion. of the animated sp,Ke ~\'hidl
consciousness which lives more f~lly "in" to its is the hallmark of childhood. 11 is a space 0/
environment, rather than setting itself against it. privacy, intimacy, and empowerment. ,1nd
Such a style represents a recovery-in the sense of becomes almost sacred for its inhabitants.
4gehaben. or sublatIOn-not only of childhood,
but of certain aspects of "primitive" mentality. The space of the institution. on the other hand. 1$
And it involves a reformulation of the pair the space of the ethical and the transcendent,
adult/child in the West, where historically they where privacy, intimacy, and ch0icl.' ,He iorg(lne
have been set in separation and contradiction. 4 in the interests of cooperation, competit\0n.
disciplined work, and festival. In the institution,
At this point it would be well to remember Yi-Fu one shares space with the stranger, who is one's
Tuan's observation about the function of the brother or sister in the human lomlly. Felr
house for nonliterate people-a "ritual place," a children it is a place of transformation thT(lll~h
"locus of economic activity," a "system of meeting with non-kin. including teachers ,lnd
symbols," a communicator of ideas. Environ- peers. Historically, it is a setting charactenz\.\.i by
ments for young children, whether familial or a high degree of external control dnd
collective, are all of these things as well. They organization, routinization. and limitaticms (In
function as a field or display of messages about personal choice (Proshansky & Fabian, 1987;
tht'ir uses. Their configurations call for certain Rivlin, Bogert, & Cirillo, 1981; Wolfe & Ridin,
"stclOding behaviors" (Barker & Wright, 1955), that 1987) where autonomy, individualization,
carry through into adulthood. Given the privacy, and adaptability arc at risk. In deSigning
Romantic formulation, the best sort of environ- child care centers, we are faced with tht'
ment would provide behavior settings that extraordinary problem of producing a communal
encourage a kind of adult intentionality which space that combines in some new way these two
does not sacrifice the child to the adult. kinds of loci: Tempering the clannishness of the
Environments would both adapt to the young home with the ethical clarity of the institution,
child's intentional modes and foster the continuity and the alienation of the institution with th\.'
of those modes through transformations into intimacy of the home. What design clements
adulthood. The broad indications of the charac- would lead to the transformation of col!ccti\'c
teristics of such environments that follow are not space such that the primary psychological and
an attempt to review or extend the definitive behavioral ingredients of good home space were
work that has already been done toward present? [s it a question of a logical contradiction,
specifying these characteristics-in particular the to wit, can home space and institutional space
work of Prescott (984); Osmon (1971); Moore, ever be made one?-or of a social anc historical
Lane, Hill, Cohen, and McGinty (979); and contradiction which can be changed? Given the
Greenman (1988)S-but to ground that work in increasingly numerous hours that young children
the phenomenology of the child's lived spend in institutional settings, the question is on
experience, the phenomenology of architectural longer merely academic. For the young child in
space, and the historical moment of the child care, the home and the institution arc both
child/adult pair in the West. places of the most radical personal formation. In

and through these spaces, the cohort's subject- anonymous" (Lang, 1985. p. 202), IS the .1Qilll~ 1,1
(1bjl'ct style IS constructed. The I is distinguished act transformatively wlthm it. [nhabltln~ In\·\'h·\·...
from the non-I. the animate from the non- incorporation, acquIsitIOn, lmtiatl\'e, l'mbrdLL'.
anImate, "mine" from "yours," the masterable assimilation, transmutation, annexation (Ldng.
':-om the unmasterable, the controllable from the 1985). The ability to do all these things requires ,1
u nC0ntrollable, the what-I-am-responsible-for measure of autonomy Within a spatl.11
frClm the what-r-am-not-responsible-for environment, a threshold ('f l'mpo\\,erment QL'h'w
(rroshansky & Fabian, 1987). Settings that do not which they arc no longer posstbk Thus,
provide for what Spivak (1984) refers to as architectural space must not only be ,l(cessibk
',lrchetypal places··-i.e., spaces that meet the but negotiable, and encouragc cholcc.
rundamental needs of emotional shelter,freedom transformation through personal InltldtIVl'. an,i
of mO\'emen t, terri toria lity, rea II y sufficient the possibility of leaving one's mark on thL' l\'prlll
storage, places for feeding, sleeping, grooming,
and excreting which are not affronts to taste and As we have seen, the chIld's project is wantlng'II)-
privacy, etc.-lead to forms of deprivation that be-independently. In the Western devl'll'pmenl.ll
could have effects on the future social fabric formulation, this project in\'olves it process
(Wolfe, 1978). Most importantly, the lack of whereby temporary separation leads to
awareness about the crucial human need for integration at a higher level. Functions separ,lk'
personal space (Hall, 1966) and an optimal off and are regrouped in new hierarchical
measure of freedom and control in the built relationships, making for increased tlexibJlity and
environment threatens us culturally with the control. This process is an outcome of engaging
ossibility of a "modal" personality that is and interacting with the world. Through
assive, helpless, and stimulus-ridden (Barnes, climbing around in the world, leapIng in It,
198]). swinging, sliding, running, crawling, h(1ppln~,
cutting, painting, and combining and 5eparatmg
This design problem of reconciling home and all its various material manifestations, an
institution has implications for the style of individual body image and sense of self del·elops.
subject-object relations demanded by the Children come to i\ pla((' of lnuC'dSl'd
historical moment. The personality best adapted differentiation from the world through acti\'c!Y
(pr planet survival would appear to be the one in exploring the limits of thci r fusmn WI th it.
\\ hlch strong indh.idualism is tempered by strong
care for others. The balance between the home This project of wanting-to-be-independently
and the institution is at least analogous to the through transformative action on the world leads
balance between the personal and the collective. not just to internal diJferentiation of structures o(
The individual who takes responsibility for the consciousness; what also emerges from the child's
other will emerge from a collective that takes engagement with the world is a trace of his or her
responsibility for-i.e., allows-the individual. interaction-a product. This product-unlike the
Analogously, the redefined "home" will nurture adult's, which is an organization according to a
the powers of childhood-relative subject-object predetermined taxonomy of use-is best
fusion, the conservation of "transitional" space, an understood in the same way a work of art is
understanding of the liVing, interdependent understood: as a symbol or an artifact of the
quality of the environment~ven in the face of experience of transitional space, representing
the demands of work and discipline. both the inner and the outer. The block
construction, the painting, the piece of wood
bristling with nails, the costumed body, the
NFINISHED ENVIRONMENTS, pattern of chips, the rapt exploration of water, the
EMPOWERMENT, AND HUMAN part of the father, mother, or hero all are forms of
DEVELOPMENT representation of the world which have emerged
through the child's transformative action.
A second broad characteristic of the optimal
collective environment for young children is its Thus environments that allow engagement and
unfinished character. The fundamental interaction lead to new outcomes both internally
Ingredient of good home space, that which allows and externally. Through these transformations,
it to become an "intimate hollow carved out of the the child is advancing developmentally; is

. coming to himself," i.e., he or she is becoming an of nature are rec0gnlzL'J and livcJ \\'llh, r.llhl'r
aJ1I11. Em'lronments that CONce us, that "do It all than suppressed. The separation bel\\'C'I..'n pnsl'n
t~r" us, d('ny the developing adult-the child-in and nature which is the hallmark of the
,~Il (If us. They are "adult" em'ironments in the West is reified architecturally in Institutlon,1l
~cn5e In which "adult" is exclusi\'e from "child." buildings whIch arc blind tn theIr n.\tural
-l~el/ are "finished." Environments that allow for surroundings. Such i1rchitecture then rl',Kts upon
transformation through representing the world consciousness, in thJt it trains hum.1n pen:cptlOn
(ilnnot be completely fInished, because a to ignore nature and supports inlL'rpretrltlnns (If
romplctely finished thing will resist nature as either a threat or a potcnticll nhlCct fl.,r
tran::.iormation through action (:\Jicholson, 197·H. "the standing rescrve." But the r(,sp0nsin' ,1JUI..
TranSllional srace welcomes the shape given tn it like the child, remaln:::i "in touch" With n.lturl..·. Ipr
['ya transformative act. So the bare platform in him or her, nature rL't,lins a lIVIng facl..',
the clearing (Cohen, Hill, Lane, McGinty, &
:-'100re, 1979) invites my act of dramatic [n its idealized form, the h0lI')L' IS .\
transformation, waits to become, as Huizinga transformation of nature, made from n,llurL' ,1nd
0955, p. 10) cal1ed it, a "consecrated spot." based on nature's originary forms. A::. h'C'
Confronted with a chalkboard just at her height, approach the Zulu kraal lDuly. 1979), WI.' MI..' npt
the young child will fill it with runic signs which sure for a moment if it is n,ltural 0r humanlv
F,leam with inchoate, archetypal meaning. constructed. so cunningly does it lISC the fl.'rms
Equipped with the right watering can, the three and the materials of the landscape in \\ hich it ::'
: car old will dance industriously through every placed. Yet the house goes \::>cyond natUrL', It
sunlit nook and cranny where potted plants await gathers nature-the forms, the patterns. the
his ministrations. textures, the kinds of light, the colors, the
domains and pathways-and reconfigures it in a
Th0 en\ irnnment with its quota of transitional new interpretive focus. The house both opcns u~
sf.'acc IS a \'I.·orking environment. Like the artist's to nature and protects us from it. [t IS dn 0lg,ln
studio, its unfinished character chal1('nges and through which we know nature clgaln. As
empowers. calling us to transformative action. It Lcvinas (1969, p. 156) c'<presscs it, "The d\\'('lli:l~
t0aches ownership and participation-which are remains in its own way open upon the dement
necessary for a sense of responsibility-through from which it separates." The modern
convincing us that the world is not a finished institutional building. on the other hanJ,
rroduct into which we are placed passively, generally turns stubbornly inward, away irom
either as victims or as "lucky." In fact, as Stokols' nature, providing its O\\ln alternative "nclturc" 01
and Shumaker's (1981) work suggests, the plastics, fluoresc~ts, and air conditioning
rhysical environment, the social world, the systems. It does voluntarily what a bUIlding on
intrapersonal, and the interpersonal worlds are all the moon \vould be required to do.
interactive and mutually entraining. All of these
components of the world are transformed A building that taught young children the
through critical and imaginative transactions with interconnectedness of the natural and the human
v,'hat is unfinished into some new configuration worlds would design the interfaccs between
which is never final. As Bognar (1985, p. 190) indoor and outdoor to allow for optimal
points out, "Real places have a continual continuity and the most-open possible interaction
possibility for revision, reinterpretation, between the two. The outdoors should enter the
reenactment and recreation. The 'spirit of place' building through windows, courtyards, and
as a sense of totality and wholeness, therefore, intermediate spaces-covered terraces and
can be only imprecisely precise." porches, etc.-and the outside made accessible in
all weathers through shelters-gazebos,
THE NATURAL AND THE BUILT overhangs, protective trees and rocks, and
ENVIRONMENT microclimates of all sorts (Moore et aI., 1979).
Further, collective space for young children
A third broad characteristic of the optimal should lay bare the economics of the world by
physical collective environment for young making the kitchen, the garden, the workbench,
children is the extent to which it is embedded in the solar panel, or the boiler room fully integrated
the natural world in a way in which the elements aspects of the environment.

VARlET)' :\:'\0 RICH~-ESS OF PLACE Such rLKes teach the :>llrt ('If sul'l ...,,,,-!-,'l",.',
relation thaI was Idl..'ntliicd by Cl'I,'rld~. ,. '"
F;nall:-·. a buliJmg lhat pro\'iJes for h.lbitatiC'n, 'lnllllll\'e reason," HI: ddmcd It ,lS llut lr.lllltll'l1
ransivrmatl\'e action, and hClghtened awarenes:, of thi nbs which arises \,'hen \,'l' ~'\':>::""':O:' .'11 rs\..'l\ ,"
,'" the naturJI ,,'orld must pro\"ide ior an o\'crall <IS one I,'ith thl' wh0lc.' In «'ntra,t t" I!-,.lt \\'hh'~'
\".Hld;: and bJlance among spaces; not only iM presents it~lf \,'hcn , . " Wl' th!n\.. l,i \"ur~\'I\'l'~ ,1'
the iunct10nal sp.1Cc-the classroom, the stage, scrara ted belO~s . ..lnJ pi".-\..' nJ lu rc III .1n lllh ...'sis !I'
tl'e \,"orksh0p, \'r the as~mbly hall-but also for the nlll1d, as object tl' :>1:bjl'Lt. Illlnl: hI llh'll~ilt
\, hat Hart (1979, pp. 170, 204) calls "places of death to life" (Coven,lV, Hbl, p, ":'1 Intultt',\..,
:l'tJchmcnl, sec! usion. and quiel." L: nkss places reason IS the vcry form p( i lte or' ch d,ilw. ,...1
,'r \\llrk an\.! (Clcbr,lllon arc bJlanccd by pl'K\'s
!N 're~tlng, watching, dabbling introspecli\'ely"
chtldren do not experience the "Iivingncss" of CHILDRE~ A'O RE-HL'\1A:'\IZ.\TIO'
:;;~'atiality Itself. but only the people who inhabit
It. \,'ho may involuntarily drown out the still, This essay represents on I y a vcry ru,~ Imen tor::
small \'OICe of place, Life then becomes associated beginning of a much larhC'r rdlc...-tlon. An
\, Ilh people only, and not only visual space, but indeterminate number of other, lr:1portant
o,her organisms become deanimated, Thus the uestions remain to be taken up, FM l"'<ampk,
prejudice is perpetuated that humans are the ..... hat provisions for adults arc nccessar: In d Inll~
only true living beings in the universe. and the habitable child care center, which is. after all. n01
\'Ision of childhood-the interlocutive subject- just a child- but an adult-child ((IIk-ctlve?
object relation whICh can lead to an adult sense of Further. is a truly habitable aJult-chdJ
relatedness and care-is suppressed. We need collective-whatevcr the glory of its architectural
places where we are no longer driven to act on space-even pOSSible Without certain basic
the world only to change it or produce something requirements which han.' nothing to do \"ith
from it. Rather. through special places-the archi tectural space? I t is, for exa mple, a rguabJc
\\'indo\" nook. a textured wall, a small interior that no adult-child collective is truly habitable
courtyard-the world takes us to its heart, and without an appropriate, ratio of adulls to children,
every object and configuration becomes a sign of That question leads even further, to the question
the unutterable truth of being itself. Such settings that grounds it: Is it callow idl..'alism even to
can preserve and create a sense of meaning in the hope that we will ever attain to a cultural and
\-,'orld. social situation in which we give full attention to
our children-the attention that they crave and
An overall pattern of spaces-spaces that hide; that we know results in more intelligent, more
enclose; open onto larger vistas; inhabit different productive, more cooperative, happier adults?
levels; connect intricately with other spaces; allow
different numbers of occupants; wander ft could be that our goal as designers and
coherently; afford different entryways; frame sky, advocates for children should be the
..,'ater, and trees with windows; etc.-builds the transformation of all institutional and public
animate, interlocutive quality which is the domains into adult-child collectives. Rather than
originary vision, not just of childhood, but of the feeling guilty about forcing children out of the
deeper levels of human perception. Bognar 0985, home, we could use the opportunity to force the
p, 90) speaks of a designed space which provides home back into public space, and reintegrate the
a "richness of place," He describes it as: spheres of childrearing and productive work, in a
new and dialectically transformed configuration .
. . .the concerted ability of the constituents Returning children to the workplace after their
to induce a feeling of totality or to signify long banishment by the Industrial Revolution
eternity in the elusive phenomena of exis- may be a key element in the humanization of
tence, regardless of how few the elements work just as returning the streets to children
and how "simple" the place may be. Such through limiting traffic and other hazards, and re-
an environment invokes what Aldo van cognizing the total urban area as a potential
Eyck calls a "Iabyrinthian clarity," with play/learning environment for children may be
always another layer of "hidden" the key to re-humanizing our cities, While this
meaning or "infinite" depth to discover, may seem a far-fetched ideal, the alternative

-eems to be the Increasing marginalization of the frequent use ()f childhood as .1 I.le<;l~n I'
-:hI1JhC'oJ-at the same time that weapons cultural and pOlItlc,ll immatUrity M, It C0me.,; tll
~:stems proliferate, environmental pollution the same thing, IOferiorit:-. Much of the pull ()t
""'L'Cl'meS gl0bal, and dehumanized architecture the ideology of c011'nlalism and much ()f thL'
hJt hous~s,adult operall\'es of,a global system of power of the idea of modernity can be traced ttl
I:xploitation from which all traces of childhood the cvolutionary implications of the c0ncC'pt OJ
have been expunged expands. That might seem the child in the Western ''\'orld,-iew'' I r. 5:-).
0qually far-fetched, were it not actually
hilppening. ; Prescott, \10ore, and their collcJ£urs, am(ln~
others, have addressed the d(,sl~n ()f space III
FOOT~OTES young children. Other wNk not Spl.'CIIIC,lIl\
about designing ennT0nments iM y(Hlnt;
. I recognize that children's experience of the children, but preparatory research iN tho~\'
environment may differ according to their doing so includes: (1) work at the interidce l'l
ender, class, national, ethnic or racial pOSition social psychology and em'ironmental deSIgn, e
and is influenced by their health and physical on crowding, personal space, and intimacy
abilities. The focus of this paper, however, is on regulation ( Aiello, Th0mpson, & Baum, 1951;
children in general and how their environmental Saegert, 1980; on perceived frecdom Clnd contr()l
experience is distinct from that of adults. (Barnes, 1981); and on transactions between
people and places (Spivak, 198-t; Stokols &
~ Ong identifies the psychodynamics of orality as Shumaker, 1981); and (2) work at the interface of
Incorporating the following cognitive, affective, social/environmental psychology and
erceptuai, and social emphases: the magical, architectural programming (Alexander et <11.,
illocutionary aspects of language; commu- 1978; Altman, 1975; Bechtel, 1977; Chermaydf &:
nication; formulaic expression; thc tendency to Alexander, 1963; Moore, 1970; Proshil nsk~.. ,
"totalize"; the closeness to the "human lifeworld"; lttelson, & Ri vlin, 1970).
he "cmpathetic and participatory" mode of
apprehending the world; the prevalence of REFERE1'\CES
concrete, contextual, and complexive forms of
categorization; the mythic and agonistic narrative Aiello. j. R., Thompson, D. E., &:: Bilum, t\ (1'll:l11 The
qualities; the "conservative holism" towards symbiotic relationship between socl<ll rs\'cholnl''' anJ
environmental psychology: ImphcatlOns Irom ..:rawdlng,
persons and situations; the different forms of personal space, and intimacy regulation research. In J II.
temporalization 0982, Chapter 3). Harvey (Ed.), COgllltlOll, SOCIIII belllllnor, alld tile
t71Dirollment (pp. 423-438). HIllsdale, Nj: Erlbaum.
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jacobson, M., &:: Fiksdahl-Klng, I. (1978). A parttTll
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before the modern cosmos-rationalized by a University Press.
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