Designing for Teen Open Space Needs: A Study of Adult and Teen Perceptions in Roanoke, Virginia

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Virginia Tech

The design of public open spaces frequently does not address the physical and psychological needs of their users with regard to their ages. This research gathered and restated the needs and preferences of teenagers, as an understudied group, in public open spaces, with an emphasis on neighborhood parks. Utilizing a neighborhood park in Roanoke, Virginia, the study developed findings that can influence the design of public open spaces, with the goals of providing social and physical benefits of neighborhood parks for teenagers.

This research was conducted through two phases of interviews. The first phase of interviews took place with professionals who had experience in working with teenagers. The data collected in the first phase of interviews with adults were utilized for the second phase of interviews, which were with teenagers. Experimental models of the study site were created for the second phase to assist the interviewees in visualizing the various designs. In the second phase, the design options were presented to the teenaged study group in response to teenagers' characteristics and needs as determined by the outcomes of the first phase of interviews. The teenagers were asked to state their preferences among the design options. The different options for designing neighborhood parks utilized a neighborhood park in Roanoke, Virginia, as a study site.

The findings of this research suggest that teenagers prefer to utilize spaces closer to the front of the park, by its edges, entrances, and exits, and the parking lot. These findings suggest that there may be no need to design specific spaces dedicated for teenagers in public spaces; however teenager's preferences should be considered in the design process of public spaces. Based on the findings of this research and the suggested relationships among the design attributes of neighborhood parks and teenagers' use of space, this research suggests that providing public spaces is linked with increased opportunities for the social development of teenagers. The primary implications of the findings of this research could help inform landscape architects and urban planners in their designs of future public open spaces that address the needs of teenagers.

teenagers, public open space, neighborhood parks