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Through the eyes of a child

Part 1 Dissertation 1999
Colin Miller Gilmour
Edinburgh College of Art Edinburgh UK
How does a child see the world? We should theoretically all know, as we have all been there and experienced life as a child, but as the years pass we slowly forget and become more realistic in our outlook. This paper explores some of the perceptions that children have in relation to architecture and where they might have come from.

One of the main findings of this study has been the lack of knowledge about children's perceptions of architecture and the built environment. It would seem that because we have all been a child, we therefore assume that we know how a child perceives the world and, consequently do not need to explore this topic. As is shown in the paper, however, an adult's memories of childhood are not exactly a true reflection of that period and owe more to an amalgamation of the good things which happened.

As part of my research into this subject I embarked upon a series of workshops involving children aged between 10 -12, in which they were asked to design a house, firstly from their own experience, and then asked to repeat the exercise after being exposed to selected architectural influences. These workshops are described stating what procedures were used, what results were expected, and ultimately what results were achieved. I have then analysed these results and drawn up conclusions based upon my previous research and information obtained from discussions with the children.

The conclusion reached is that in my opinion there should be a greater emphasis placed on education about the built environment in our schools, and there needs to be a more structured approach to teaching the subject. Children already have the motivation to want to learn through their experiences, and these experiences help to form their views in later life. Therefore a programme that is well thought out to encourage their natural instincts to explore and to take an active interest in architecture could increase the child's awareness and appreciation of the built environment, and consequently equip them with a solid grounding with which to progress into the world and take part in the overall debate with a more informed opinion.
De Bono, E., (1972) Children Solve Problems, London, Penguin Books.
Cohen, S., (1990) "Young Children's Preferences For School-Related Physical
Environment Setting Characteristics", Environment and Behaviour,
Vol. 22, No. 6, pp. 753-766.
Devlin, A.S., (1994) "Children's Housing Style Preferences", Environment and Behaviour,
Vol. 26, No. 4, pp. 527-559.
Geibel, V., (1988) "Starting Small", Metropolis, Vol. 8, No. 4, p40.
Pennartz, P.J.J., (1990) "Adults, Adolescents, And Architects", Environment And Behaviour,

Colin Miller Gilmour

Colin Gilmour showed great iniative in pursuing the subject of this dissertation. Having
discovered a surprising dearth of information on what one would imagine to be a topic of
fundamental importance for architects and all involved with the built environment, he
was undaunted and set about devising his own programme of workshops to establish at
first hand how children saw architecture. As tutors we did not have a large input into
designing the research, mainly confining our roles to commenting on the written drafts
and giving editorial guidance.

The dissertation has already attracted attention in Scotland and we hope Colin will be
able to use it as the foundation of postgraduate research. It is to our mind a very
piece of research.

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