Theses Master's

Teens and improvised spaces; A study of appropriation of outdoor places

Ver, Ella

In contemporary cities, teenagers have been excluded from public open spaces through design and policy. This study examines design as a form of control that induces users' behavior in space through formal and informal rules. These rules limit acceptable actions that can be conducted in spaces. This study thus asks, “what can we learn from teens’ use of open space? How can we facilitate creativity and freedom within the realm of designed space? It explores behavior through observations, interviews, and site drawings in three appropriated spaces in the Bay Area of California: a stairwell, a public plaza, and a convenience store parking lot. It includes the researcher’s reflections about her interactions with the teens involved and the effect of her personal identity on the outcomes. The study hypothesizes that teens' reasons for appropriating these places include a combination of exclusion from open spaces by socially dominant groups and the users’ need to express independence. This hypothesis was only partially supported by findings. Teenage users expressed feelings of belonging and ownership in these places and exhibited creative ways of using the built environment. This study demonstrates that the fields of design, planning, and policy can better serve this population by relaxing their control of users and of the built environment to allow for more creativity, freedom, and active appropriation.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Urban Planning
Thesis Advisors
Irazabal Zurita, Clara E.
M.S., Columbia University
Published Here
July 10, 2014