Teens are often seen ‘lingering’ around shops and popular public spaces. They’re not spending money or working, so what are they doing? And why should we care… What is the relationship between youth and public space?

I believe there is a direct correlation between how designers and decision makers plan our public spaces and how teens can act and how they can be perceived to positively and negatively contribute to public space. And having an appreciation of their thoughts can assist in the path to developing a positive youth to adult interdependence and create a more inclusive, diverse and innovative society.

Landscape architects, designers and decision-makers need to acknowledge that youth are no longer children and they are not attracted to such spaces, which may be perceived as childish or without an engaging interest in their needs. Conversely, an in-depth understanding of local youth needs combined with an authentic design and planning process of open space can positively assist in the development of a proud inclusive community.

Teens enjoy hanging out around shops and town centres and their facilities should represent this obvious locational need with design elements, which encourage social development, active participation and positive energy. However, the Youth Affairs Council of Victoria and other leading professionals provide evidence that young people are seemingly invisible from public space and often provided with token spaces, inappropriate to their needs and aspirations.

Image: Barcelona – Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona. Credit Mat de Koning

Something needs to change…let’s involve youth in the design process to better understand their needs and celebrate new fresh ideas with the purpose of creating more innovative popular public spaces! There are so many proven techniques and methods to bring youth together and create an engaging learning process. Some popular examples include trialling pop-up spaces, mapping the unplanned places teen’s hang out and discussing why they are popular, playing problem-solving games to design new spaces, using art as a mediator to ask difficult questions, etc.

Image: Forrestfield Youth Consultation Program. Photo Credit: Skate Sculpture


Because using public space is what we do for simple pleasure and we feel its numerous advantages and positive outcomes: physical, educational, spiritual, social, healthy and so on. Therefore, a space defined for youth and shared with society needs to cater for the growing needs of adolescents and positively assist in an important period of growth, learning, contributing to society and finding new talents.

Image: Barcelona – Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona. Credit Mat de Koning

Interested in learning more or need help with a youth strategy or activation? Contact us at info@spacedout.com.au

Photo Credits: Elena Marcon Photography (cover photo)

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