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Changing places, changing childhoods: Regeneration and children's use of place in Istanbul


Children in more redeveloped neighborhoods are less likely to interact with nature, pay attention to the social attributes of their communities and appreciate heritage than children in less redeveloped neighborhoods

Research on children’s places has been conducted primarily in the Global North. This study adds to that literature by investigating children’s place experiences in Istanbul, Turkey, a large city in the Global South.

A total of 254 children, age 9-11, participated in this study. The children were from six low-income historic Istanbul neighborhoods with varying degrees of redevelopment. The children took pictures of places they used and preferred and then wrote stories about these places. Their stories included information about the location of the places and why the places were important to them.

The photos taken by the children from all six neighborhoods were typical of places children generally use: places in the public realm, houses, natural areas, and found places. There were differences, however, between neighborhoods. These differences reflected the varying degrees of redevelopment.

Fifty-five percent of all the photos were of places in the public realm. These are places owned and managed by the public (streets, parks, etc.) as well as places that are privately owned but readily accessible to the general public (shopping malls, restaurants, etc.). While children showed streets among their favorite places in all contexts, the way they experienced and used the streets differed by neighborhood. Streets in the least redeveloped neighborhoods included people, whereas streets in more redeveloped neighborhoods were generally empty. The street for children living in traditional (least redeveloped) neighborhoods was a place to play and socialize. For many children in neighborhoods that had undergone significant redevelopment, the streets – while visually appealing – were routes to a destination.

After streets, places children mostly favored were open spaces (such as parks and playgrounds), places with nature (e.g., gardens, yards with trees, etc.) and found places (e.g., vacant lots, construction sites, abandoned buildings, etc.). Children from neighborhoods that had undergone more redevelopment have less contact with nature and found places than children in less redeveloped neighborhoods. They were also more attentive to the built environment than the other children.

The results of this study, conducted in the Global South, reaffirms conclusions of previous research on children’s places: children enjoy using the public realm, natural and historic places. Children in more redeveloped neighborhoods, however, have less opportunity for contact with such places. In addition to the significance of these findings, another important aspect of this research was the role that children played in generating data. The participatory photography method, along with the results of this study, show how city planners can engage children in affecting positive change in urban redevelopment processes.


Severcan, Y.C., (2017). Changing places, changing childhoods: Regeneration and children's use of place in Istanbul. Urban Studies


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