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Kirk (2018) writes, by 2050 around 70 percent of people will be urbanites and the majority of them under 18. Young people and urban design may not seem to have any correlation, throughout history and still to this day many practitioners and designers will also shun away the idea of participating with or designing for this community.


During the time of growing up for young people, adolescence is a period during which these individuals experience physical, mental, and emotional changes (Department for Communities and Social Inclusion, n.d). Furthermore, it is not surprising that this correlates to adolescents becoming vulnerable and creating risks to themselves and their local contexts, this may lead to misunderstanding and the way people view young people. The vulnerability and risks are often balled up together in a way that society sees young people as the problem or the forthcoming so at the current time we can disregard them when planning or designing (Hardgrove, 2014).

Designing with


Fig. 1 – Exemplary Tasks from the 55 pilot projects (Uttke et al. 2013: 33)
Fig. 2 – Workshop Erfurt, Germany (Uttke et al. 2013)

Participating research has shown working with young people has revealed the behaviour of the community being in the problematic or an indicator of risk can actually indicate a rational and resilient response to risk on the part of the young person (Ungar, 2004: 341). Now government bodies and design groups have slowly started to incorporate principles and strategies to participate with young people. In the past, this had not been the case until pioneers and advocates like Kevin Lynch and his publication of  ‘Growing up in Cities’ raises the issues on young people and urban design (Lynch, 1997).

Gill (2019: 33) writes that the leaders of municipal departments have received training in child participation, helping to support their methodologies and promoting re-use in their neighbourhoods of São Paulo. Driskell (2002: 23) states that everybody learns and grows through young people’s participation, it is that of a powerful vehicle for social transformation. Through participation, ‘community evaluation, planning, design and management, they are exposed to a wide range of people and ideas and develop new valuable skills’.

What now?

Now cities like Toronto, Berlin, and London have introduced many youth-friendly design strategies to cater to the needs of young people as current-day citizens, participating with young people and creating intergenerational neighbourhoods and cities for all communities. I will carry out further research on this topic within my design thesis.

Fig. 3 – Youthul Cities (Author’s Own)


Department for Communities and Social Inclusion, (n.d). Working with Vulnerable Youth – Key Concepts and Principles. p.3. Retrieved 21 March 2020 from:

Driskell, D. (2002). Creating Better Cities with Children and Youth. London: Earthscan.

Gill, T.  (2019). Cities Alive – Designing for Urban Childhoods. ARUP, Retrieved 15 April 2020 from:

Hardgrove, A. (2014). What’s the Problem? Youth and Vulnerability in a Global Perspective. United Nations Development Programme, Retrieved 21 March 2020 from:

Kirk, M. (2018). How to Design Cities for Children. CityLab, Retrieved 20 April 2020 from:

Lynch, K. (1997). Growing Up in Cities. Cambridge, Ma: M.I.T. Press.

Ungar, M. (2004). A Constructionist Discourse on Resilience. Youth & Society, 35(3), pp.341-365

Uttke, A, Heinrich, AJ, Bentlin, F, Bobmback, S, Niemann, L, Shauz, T, Andreas, V & Edelhoff, S (2013), ‘Jugendbeteiligung im Praxistest’, Berlin, Dortmund, unpublished final report.

Figure list

Feature image – Urban Design Directory. (u.d.). CIAM6 Cities-Reimagined [image] Available at:

Fig. 1 – Uttke, A, Heinrich, AJ, Bentlin, F, Bobmback, S, Niemann, L, Shauz, T, Andreas, V & Edelhoff, S. (2013). Exemplary tasks [image]

Fig. 2 –  Uttke, A, Heinrich, AJ, Bentlin, F, Bobmback, S, Niemann, L, Shauz, T, Andreas, V & Edelhoff, S. (2013). Workshop in Erfurt, Germany [image]

Fig. 3 – Fong, A. (2020) Creating youthful cities [image]

One response to “Designing with Young people”

  1. Thank you Andrew for your post. Participatory design is one of great many ways to practice democracy. People will have an opportunity to have a say, challenge and share their ideas in designing their own neighbourhoods. The main aim of participatory design is to achieve rapport by involving local residents in proposing design and development from the start to finish (Keskeys, 2018). I believe this is one of the benefits of it. This method can develop social relations with the local residents. It enable the designers or acting consultants to look at issues and problems within the local resident’s perspectives (Baek and Lee, 2008). It is vital to develop relationships in order to identify the underlying problems and tackle them head on. If not, it may leave certain groups of people vulnerable if we apply surface level/band aid solutions to the problem.

    One of the main exemplar example of participatory design is Speil/Feld Marzahn project in Berlin. This town is faced deprivation, increasing levels of unemployment, and the space has no leisure opportunities for children and adults (Viljoen and Bohn, 2014). In practice, the council and other external stakeholders engaged with local residents to create a safe space that is productive, health and community driven. There was collaboration with local residents and nearby schools to visualise a space that engage and enhance the already existed community. Children did a lot of sketches and drawings of allotments and gardens to show what they intend if they were the designers (Viljoen et al., 2016). Years after, the project was a success, local residents used the space for growing and consume their local produce.

    Overall, participation is crucial to create a space for the users. It is democratic and rooted with collaboration which makes us aware on their needs rather than assume what they want. I believe that is what makes a space successful.

    Baek, J. and Lee, K., 2008. A participatory design approach to information architecture design for children. CoDesign, 4(3), pp.173-191.

    Keskeys, P., 2018. Can Participatory Design Save The World?. [online] Architectural Digest. Available at: <> [Accessed 23 May 2020].

    Viljoen, A. and Bohn, K., (2014). Second Nature Urban Architecture. London: Routledge.

    Viljoen, A., Bohn, K. and Howe, J., (2016). Continuous Productive Urban Landscapes. London: Routledge, Taylor & Francis.

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