Tiina Männistö-Funk (University of Turku) and Martin Emanuel (Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm)
Children, Urban planning, Urban space
The second half of the 20th century saw many changes in cities due to modernist planning and the creation of welfare cities, rapid motorization and new urban lifestyles. These transformations coincided with changes in children’s experiences and role in society. Children were among the most vulnerable groups of urban societies and a key issue for example in traffic planning and social services. Hence studying children highlights inequalities of the urban environment as well as attempts for more equality. The papers included in the session explore changes in urban space related to children from the point of view of planning (of day-care centres, playgrounds, traffic calming), discourses (in traffic safety materials) and children’s practices, emotions and experiences (urban exploration, trips to school).
The session’s aims are three-fold. Our main foci is on children’s capabilities in relation to urban space. Taken together, the contributions suggest that the period is marked by an expansion of specific, increasingly standardized spaces for children—day-care centres, playgrounds, pedestrian networks—as a result of norm-based welfare planning. Within this context, children’s needs and capabilities featured in multiple, sometimes contradictory ways. On the one hand, children were increasingly monitored and provided with safe, controlled environments. On the other hand, this period saw efforts aimed to build children’s capability, to maintain their independence and handle real-life complexities.
Secondly, the session also aims to further explore legacies of the built environment and past discourses on children’s experiences and practices. That material remnants of welfare planning ideologies continue to shape present-day practices appears evident, but to what extent do enduring cultural expressions feature in our current value-systems around children and the city? Thirdly, we recognise the challenge to study children and their perspectives historically and aim at methodological discussion. To that end, the session brings together top-down approaches, looking into how experts provided for children, studies of mediators and spokespersons of children’s needs and capabilities, and attempts to capture children’s own practices through the innovative use of “alternative” sources such as children’s books and paintings.
Referring Children to the Underworld: Techno-Politics of Schools and Tunnels in Stockholm, ca 1945-65
Martin Emanuel (Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm) and Daniel Normark (Uppsala University)
Techno-politics, Walking, Children
During the post-war period, traffic safety surfaced as a major concern in most European cities. Rising levels of car traffic and children’s safety came increasingly into conflict. The response was diverse. Previous research (Lundin 2008) has identified a shift among experts during the 1950s and 1960s in regard to traffic hazards. An individual-psychological explanatory model, promoting traffic education and police control was replaced by a perspective in which children were immature road users who had to be fully segregated from other traffic. This planning-oriented model formed a basis for traffic-separated new district and suburbs in Swedish cities in the 1960s, 1970s, and beyond.
In this paper, we aim to analyse these shifting ideas as they actually materialized on the ground, including their impact on children’s mobility as well as that of others. We particularly focus on school trips. How did the planning of new schools, infrastructure, and everyday mobility practices co-evolve between 1945 and 1970? How did children’s vulnerability and capabilities feature in more general discussions about walking in cities and impact the conditions to walk more widely considered. By means of local case studies in Stockholm, we trace the gradual adoption of new ways to provide children with safe ways to get to school—through implementing pedestrian signals, children-led traffic patrols, and pedestrian tunnels—depending also on locational strategies of schools. Combining city council records and source materials of the city archives (street, urban planning, and school departments) with press coverage (daily press, local school press), we reveal how measures to control children’s mobility became increasingly non-negotiable and how the “techno-politics” of tunnels influenced the mobility of not only children but also pedestrians in general.
Towards Standardized Childhood. The Development of Built Play Spaces in Helsinki 1940-1990
Veera Moll (Aalto University)
Urban Children, Playground, Helsinki
This paper studies the changing urban childhood by focusing on the development of built play spaces. From the 1950s on the public playground network increased significantly and started to extend from the city centre to the suburbs in Helsinki. Other built play spaces like swings and sandboxes were also common especially in the yards of the newly built suburbs.
From the 1960s and 1970s on built play spaces started increasingly being regulated and standardized. At the same time new play equipment company Oy Pohjoiskalotti-Nordkalotten Ab (Today Lappset Group Oy) was founded and by the 1990s wooden Lappset climbing frames, sandboxes and swings had become an essential part of Finnish children’s play environments in playgrounds, schools, kindergartens and home yards. Today Lappset Group Oy is one of the leading manufacturers of playground and sport park equipment both in Finland and worldwide.
Examining Oy Pohjoiskalotti-Nordkalotten Ab and Lappset Group catalogues and advertisements, interviews with the two founders of the company this paper sheds light on the development of play equipment from Lappset company perspective. To better understand the changes that have occurred in the actual play spaces a collection of photographs from the Helsinki City Museum is analyzed. Additionally, a collection of planning documents focusing on the play space regulations is used. This paper discusses children’s changing role in urban space and asks, what were the built play environments for children all about. Are adult-made play spaces children’s islands, way to separate children as Zeiher (2001) put it? Or ways to compensate the daily restrictions children experience in the urban environment (Karsten, 2003)? Or something else? This paper is part of my PhD work on children in urban planning of Helsinki in 1940-1990.
Daycare as Multidisciplinary Welfare Service – Standardising Daycare Centres in Finland in the 1970s and 1980s
Hanna Tyvelä (Tampere University)
Welfare State Planning, Daycare Centre, Childcare
This paper discusses welfare planning from the perspective of the urban built environment in the early welfare state in Finland. It focuses on the implementation work of the public daycare system in Finland in the 1970s and 1980s, especially on the standardisation of daycare centre architecture. The system planning of child and family welfare was based as much on social as technical knowledge: education professionals, architects, building industry, researchers, politicians, and the trade union movement were active parties in the process from taking the daycare legislation (1973) to practice.
This case study describes the above processes of negotiations and planning and highlights the daycare system and daycare centres as an outcome of interdisciplinary planning of welfare in Finland. The study material consists of articles, seminar publications, memos, and other contemporary material from the 1970s and 1980s as well as the first published planning manuals of daycare centres. The case study shows that modern architecture was part of welfare production, the idea very much true to the early ideas of modernist architecture in reforming societies and cities. The period of active welfare systems building in Finland, the 1970s and 1980s were also defined by the rapid industrialisation of the building industry. The heavily industrialised building processes enabled the effective implementation of the new welfare systems, daycare being one of the many welfare reformations in Finland in that period. Retrospectively, the urban built environment of the early welfare state in Finland can be seen as an outcome of the standardisation of architecture and the realised ideas of social modernism.
The paper is part of my PhD dissertation on 20th century welfare state architecture and social planning of the early welfare state in Finland.
Exploring the City through Multi-sensory Learning: Case of Post-war Helsinki
Antti Malinen (Tampere University) and Tanja Vahtikari (Tampere University)
Urban Space, Children’s Experience, Post-war
In post-war Helsinki children possessed a wide range of independent mobility and were able to explore the city by themselves and with peers. These competences and capabilities were often self-learned, but they were also taught at home and even in the Finnish elementary schools. As part of their curriculum, children studied urban spaces with their teachers in a multi-sensory manner – by walking, seeing, hearing, touching, and smelling. The aim was to foster at-home-ness and children’s capabilities to attach to their localities, as children would learn to appreciate the different qualities and affordances of the city. Schools and classrooms were places, where children transformed their field excursion experiences into essays, drawings and shared discussions. In our presentation we will examine these intertwined practices of exploring urban space, and how experiencing, sensing and feeling the city was co-created by teachers and children in post-war Helsinki.
The main source material that we use in our research are children’s drawings and paintings that depict urban spaces from two Helsinki schools, the Käpylä primary school and the Töölö secondary school. The drawings, part of a large collection of around 30,000 works, are archived in the Aalto University’s History of Art Education Archives, making them a rare resource internationally. Typically, school archives donated to HAE, were created by an individual teacher who had collected students’ works over the years and wanted to preserve them as historical examples of contemporary art education. In our presentation, we also want to raise a methodological question of how children’s urban experiences can be researched by investigating children’s drawings and drawing as a practice. In our approach we combine insights from the history of children, urban history and the history of experience and emotions.
The City of Motorized Threat Children’s Traffic Safety Materials in Finland from 1950s to the 1990s as Spatial Construction
Tiina Männistö-Funk (University of Turku)
Traffic Safety, Children's Mobility, Urban Space
"In the early 1950s, Traffic Committee of the Accident Prevention Association (Talja) started to publish traffic safety booklets aimed at school children in Finland. These so-called “traffic ABC books” focused on avoiding traffic accidents and following traffic regulations as a pedestrian or a cyclist. They relied heavily on illustrations of different traffic situations, paired with instructive rhymes and texts. During the following decades, several new and different versions of the booklets were produced by Talja, which was a representative of automotive associations and insurance companies as well as its follower Finnish Road Safety Council (Liikenneturva) that was a public institution founded in 1974. From the 1970s on, some of the material was targeted even at children under the school age, sometimes as young as three years old, but the school children remained the main target group.
Children’s traffic safety materials constructed the city space through the constant threat of motorized mobility, especially the passenger cars. Spatial organization and mobility were determined by this threat and children appeared as a group that could never fully be protected from it, due to their specific characteristics. While declaring to work for children’s protection, these materials also served to normalize “the system of automobility” (Urry 2004) as the most important feature of urban space for those outside the motorized vehicles. Over the decades, the representations of children’s mobility in this motorized space changed. Whereas children move rather freely in the materials from the 1950s and 1960s, thus facing ubiquitous dangers, the materials from 1970s on represent children who are confined to certain places and/or supervised by adults, thus facing threats only in specific dangerous places.
Many Dangers Lie Ahead - "Lasten liikennelaulu" (The Children's Traffic Song) and the Educational Value of Urban Nostalgia
Ainur Elmgren (University of Oulu)
Traffic Safety, Children's Music, Nostalgia
The Children's Traffic Song, with lyrics by Helena Eeva and melody by Georg Malmstén and first released in 1955, became a hit and an evergreen in post-war Finland. Covered by pop stars like Kirka Babitzin in the 1960s, and still topping the single charts in the 2000s, what made the educational song such an enduring success? I explore how the song's lyrics, describing traffic dangers in an urban setting, have been used in debates about traffic safety since the 1950s.
The song has been reused and adapted to different media, including films and live events, such as the opening of the first ""Lasten liikennekaupunki"" (Children's Traffic City) in Helsinki in 1955. Nostalgia is popularly associated with rural life in Finland, but the Children's Traffic Song is set in an explicitly urban environment. In opinion pieces, the opening lines of the song's chorus (""Always remember in traffic / that many dangers lie ahead"") have not only been used to admonish children, but also - and perhaps mainly - to remind the adult reader of their childhood lessons through the evocation of nostalgic feelings.
Through the Children's Traffic Song and its wider social and historical context, including the Children's Traffic City initiatives and the continued use of the song in media, I discuss two aspects of traffic education: On the one hand, the perceived dangers in an urban environment dominated by the car (making the song relevant throughout the 1950s until the 2000s), and on the other hand, how the song was utilized to teach self-reliance and initiative to children as pedestrians and bicyclists in the present, but also as mature citizens of the future.