Is it possible to design for normal childhood development? Can
an implemented landscape actually influence a child through the stages of
development, both physically and psychologically? If this is true, and I
believe it is, how do these findings impact the designs of early childhood
care facilities? This project seeks to answer these questions by creating
a sensitive planned orphanage and thus contribute to the ongoing examination
of how good planning and good design can enhance the overall quality of early
childhood care, education and overall enrichment?
project examines the stages of normal childhood development, the developmental
milestones and tasks of those stages, theories related to human development,
and the dimensions of supportive environments.
It also examines existing orphanage and treatment facilities that are
sensitive in their designed environments to the developmental needs of
children. A series of design
recommendations based upon the knowledge gained from the research into theory
and the exemplars of case study precedents will then be compiled to aid in
creating a program for development for a planned orphanage in Baldwin County Alabama.
simple study was conducted to discover the effects of a fence around a
playground and the consequent impact it would have on preschool children. Teachers were to take their children to a
local playground in which there was no fence during their normal recess
hour. The kids were to play as
normal. The same group was to be taken
to a comparable playground in which there was a defined border designated by a
the first scenario, the children remained huddled around their teacher, fearful
of leaving out of her sight. The later
scenario exhibited drastically different results, with the children feeling
free to explore within the given boundaries.
overwhelming conclusion was that with a given limitation, children felt safer
to explore a playground. Without a
fence, the children were not able to see a given boundary or limit and thus
were more reluctant to leave the caregiver.
With a boundary, in this case the fence, the children felt at ease to
explore the space. They were able to
separate from the caregiver and continue to develop in their sense of self
while still recognizing that they were in a safe environment within the limits
of the fence.
Research has demonstrated that the quality of planned and designed
childhood primary environments has an impact specifically on cognitive and
social developmental behaviors. Studies
have proven that children exposed to ambient noises manifest significant delays
in reading, can have long term memory loss, and are less motivated. Social withdrawal, aggression, and helplessness
were most closely related to higher densities in primary environments. Studies have proven that low-density housing
contributed to resilience among socioemotional and cognitive development in
younger children. Chronic crowding has
also been linked to a lower motivation in task performance in children from
age's six to twelve. Verbal and Math
deficiencies and lower standardized test scores were also recognized in more
crowded living conditions.
centers of more than about 60 or 75 children, emphasis tends to be placed on
rules and routine guidance, play areas tend to be low on organization, variety
and amount of things to do per child, and children are less interested or
enthusiastically involved in comparison to smaller centers. The overall judgment of a number of
well-respected researchers is that centers of 60 to 75 children are best, both
for the children and the staff.
Moore discussed the advantages of a modified open plan in early childhood
facilities. These modified open plans
are described as "buildings where space is organized into a variety of large
and small activity spaces open enough to allow children to see the
possibilities available to them while providing enough enclosure for the
children to be protected from noise and visual distractions". Moore continued to discuss how these plans
prompt children to initiate behaviors on their own more significantly and their
exploratory behavior is more pronounced in these types of facilities.
Animal Assisted Therapy also has many components that contribute to
cognitive therapy. In addition, the
activity enhances coordination, discipline, and effective communication with
the animal (in most cases, these animals are horses).
According to the Children's Environment Research Group, designers must
understand the need to set the stage for play and to allow children to write
their own scripts. They believe that
what we really need is an un-planning of the environment for children's play
and to begin respond to children rather than direct them.
Outdoor environments are also important to children's development of
independence and autonomy. Outdoor spaces allows children to gradually
experiment with increasing distance from their caretaker. While the development
of greater independence from toddlerhood to middle childhood can happen within
the confines of indoor spaces, safe spaces outdoors greatly add to the ability
of children to naturally experiment with independence and separation, and the
adult's willingness to trust the child's competence which is essential for
separation to happen. This is particularly important for children who live in
small and crowded homes.
many cases, children are socialized as much by their physical environment as they
are by the people in their lives.
Because of this, it is my ambition to determine the most appropriate and
adequate environment for the healthy growth and development of children,
specifically children in orphanages and shelters.
understanding the characteristics of the physical environment that influence
child development, we will be able to appropriately apply the program elements
to the site with a procedure that is sensitive to the developmental process of
children, specifically disadvantaged children.
Precedents possessing a unique strategy for dealing with disadvantaged
and troubled kids were researched and frequently visited. These places gave a unique, living example
of providing a safe and supportive environment for growth. The intricacies involved in each facilities
goal of creating a supportive environment for proper development of their
children were examined and considered.
for Planning and Design
hope it is now obvious that these findings and studies have massive
implications for how we should be planning and designing the environments of
early childhood growth. Design
decisions have more than just aesthetic implications; they have a relative and real
impact on the normal growth and development of children. Two charts signify the consolidation of
those implications and are presented later in the packet. The first chart was
organized after initial research, interviews and
precedents in order to give reason to design decisions during planning of the
orphanage. Through the process of
organizing and implementing the design elements and psychological intents, the
chart was reorganized and presented in another form. Rather than having design elements based on scale, as in the
previous model, the elements of design that shape childhood development were
restructured and presented in a form that better described how the elements
transcend scale. It was determined
that, together, the physical elements and psychological intents weave a
complete environment conducive to childhood development.
site analysis discussed the impact and advantages of water bodies, revealed
certain dramatic viewsheds to be taken advantage of, and areas that can provide
for a unique activity pocket. Items
such as topography, hydrology, vegetation, and context helped to determine that
certain areas were suitable for development.
Density and architectural design in the surrounding areas complemented
the desired low density and provided for a unique style sensitive to the
neighboring arts communities. The site
borders Weeks Bay Estuary, a prominent water body in the area, both socially
and environmentally. The area provides
an educational emphasis and still offers a safe breeding ground and calm environment
for the normal growth of young marine life.
The site is also a part of the only water mail route in the
country. These characteristics and
countless others essentially designed much of the site themselves. The arts focus and striking viewsheds in the
area were so strong, it would be foolish to ignore. Much of the master plan accentuates these aspects of the site.
bones of the master plan for this residential community are the road
systems. These systems were not
arbitrarily placed but are actually positioned to accentuate the already
dramatic viewsheds on the site and focus on the new activity pockets within the
orphanage. Some of the activity pockets
along with the viewsheds will act as attractants to the site for the local
community to promote interaction between the community and the children and
vise versa. The mixture of paved and
dirt roads give hierarchy to the system and blend with the already existing
completion of all phases, each house within the two housing clusters will
contain four children and will altogether have a maximum capacity of 64
children. Each building will physically
resemble a home and will contain a family model (foster parents as parental
figures and a mix of age ranges to promote sibling structure). The plan for the housing clusters will also
contain the principles of the modified open space (semi-open semi-enclosed
areas) to promote interaction between houses and still provide privacy and
refuge. Fences surround pairs of housing
to offer clear visual boundaries that have proven to encourage exploration (in
this case, exploration of nature, an element which offers numerous
developmental benefits itself).
light of recent events, the preservation and restoration of wetlands have
become increasingly important for their significant impacts on the prevention
of flooding. Though the site has not
flooded in recent memory and several houses have bordered the opposite side of
the Magnolia River for over 35 years, all of the existing wetlands are left
untouched in the master plan. This
approach allows for the preservation of the natural habitat that is home to
several resident species (13 of which are endangered). This natural system approach also improves
water quality, alleviates flooding, protects from erosion, provides recreation
and has several additional benefits.
Arts shed - The arts shed is a focal
point from several different locations on site and is an area created by and
for the children. This element
encourages exploration in the arts as well as interaction with nature. By creating opportunity, children are able
to make decisions on their own in a safe, structured environment.
Boat House - The northern boat house
takes advantage of one of the most dramatic viewsheds on the site. The location provides another opportunity to
interact with nature and will act as the start location for a canoe trail along
the east and south edge of the site.
Existing nearby utilities will allow for lighting and fan to create a
safe and comfortable environment.
Barn - The barn and surrounding
structures will house the needed equipment and materials for the equine field
and to maintain the fruit orchard and gardens.
Aesthetically, the barn will become a focal point along the entry road,
framed by vegetation, and will anchor the countryside landscape theme.
Chapel - The chapel will act as a
central gathering area for the residents of the orphanage and is the focus at
the end of a large central lawn. On
certain days when the chapel will be used for services, it will be a central
element in connecting the community with the children and the children with the
Skate Park - The skate park is an age
appropriate activity pocket that reflects the modified open space model and is
purposeful in aiding in the physical development of children. The growing popularity of skate parks
combined with the accessibility within the neighborhood will make the park an
area of social interaction, community bonding, and physical challenge.
Boat House - The southern boat house
takes advantage of an equally dramatic viewshed and will provide an end for the
previous mentioned canoe path. The area
will also contain a gathering area for family outings and will be open to the
public to again encourage interaction between the community and the
The equine field provides the most interesting and obvious therapy on the
site. Physically, but more so
emotionally, the equine center will be beneficial to the normal growth and
development of children. Additional
recreational field exist in the open lawn area and in the central lawn
area. These core areas are located
adjacent to the housing clusters and assist in promoting interaction among the
Designing supportive environments for normal child development involves
more than just physical elements within the landscape. Psychological elements play a major role in
promoting normal development in children.
But to ignore the physical elements in the landscape can be just as
detrimental in developing a complete environment. Together the physical elements combined with the psychological
intents to weave a complete environment conducive to normal growth in
children. These ideas are woven into
the master plan for the Magnolia River Ranch Orphanage; some are obvious and
some are not. They exist not
arbitrarily, but for the enhancement of early childhood care, education, and