There were three main theoretical starting points for this research approach, each based on notions of competency. Firstly, I acknowledged the importance of the ideas expressed in the emerging
sociology of childhood. This supports the view of children as ‘beings not becomings’. In other words, their views are not to be ignored because of their status as young people subservient to adult carers. Rather they are to be valued and listened to as authentic individuals in their own right functioning within a democratic community.
Childhood is viewed as one of a number of authentic structures within society, as quoted from Qvortrup et al.3 ‘…children have their own activities and their own time and their own space’. This proved to be a useful theoretical beginning for this study, acknowledging that children have important perspectives to contribute about their lives in early childhood institutions and elsewhere within the urban environment. This view of competency is in contrast to other research models, which can exclude the voices of children:
Children are often denied the right to speak for themselves either because they are held as incompetent in making judgments or because they are thought of as unreliable witnesses about their own lives.3
Instead, this study views children as ‘experts in their own lives’ and especially in the understandings
SPACE AVAILABLE HOTEL CHAINS EXPRESSWAY JUNCTIONS INTERCOM INTERCONTINENTAL RESERVATIONS AUTOMOBILES TOURIST VILLAGES MEZZANINES SUBWAYS PANORAMIC RESTAURANTS EMAIL OVERPASSES CAFETERIAS AUTOMATIC BATHROOMS TELEPHONE CARDS FAST-FOOD ESTABLISHMENTS PASSING LANES RAMPS FREIGHT ELEVATORS PNEUMATIC MAIL PARKING MACHINES SHOPPING MALLS DUTY-FREE AREAS ELEVATORS EXPRESSWAY TOLL BOOTHS VIACARD EUROPASS JUNCTIONS PRIORITY LANES VIDEOTEL FAX RECREATION CENTERS TELECOM NETWORKS FALSE CEILINGS PARTITION PANELS EMERGENCY LANES INDUSTRIAL ZONES CHANNELS 24-HOUR WEATHER REPORTS OPTIC FIBER COILS AIR-BORNE TRANSMISSION UNDERPASSES GAS STATIONS HOT BEVERAGE MACHINES SNACK MACHINES CHEWING GUM MACHINES PROPHYLACTIC DISPENSERS TOOTHBRUSH WITH TOOTHPASTE DISPENSERS CIGARETTE MACHINES TOYS IN PLASTIC BALLS DISPENSERS STAMP MACHINES COIN AND TOKEN MACHINES SLOT MACHINES EXACT TIME CUSTOMS BORDERS VIDEOGAMES MISSING PERSONS ADS DIGITAL CONSOLES INTERCOMS BLEEPERS DETECTORS MODEMS QUALITY CONTROL PANORAMIC POINTS CLOSED-CIRCUITTV CAMERAS AIRPLANES ALARM SYSTEMS S. O.S. BOXES ISLAND CONNECTIONS PUBLIC BATHS OFFICIAL INAUGURATIONS ORGANIC CULTIVATION SERVICE STATIONS REST AREAS INTERNATIONAL REPORTING WAITING ROOMS ATM MACHINES ROWS OF SUPERMARKET BUGGIES DISTANCES BETWEEN AIRPORT AND DOWNTOWN AUTOGRILL CHECK-OUT FIRE ESCAPES JET LAG EMERGENCY EXITS SLEEPING CARS UNDERGROUND PARKING LOTS WAITING AT TRAFFIC LIGHTS TRAFFIC JAMS EMERGENCY ROOM OPERATING ROOMS INTERCITY TRAINS DOCTOR’S OFFICES OPTIMIZATION OF SERVICES COPYRIGHT BANK ACCOUNTS CREDIT CARDS TELEPHONE EXCHANGES FLIGHT PATHS OPERATOR-ASSISTED TELEPHONE CALLS MUZAK WHILE WAITING FOR EXTENSION CONNECTIONS CONFERENCE ROOMS AUTOMATIC TICKET MACHINES MAGNETIC CARDS TELEPHONE WAKE-UP SERVICE DATE CHANGE LINE WEIGH SCALES WITH HOROSCOPE ACCESS CODES ANSWERING MACHINES BUS STOPS BICYCLE PATHS ENTER THE EXACT AMOUNT TRAVEL AGENCIES NO PARKING INVOICE OR CASH RECEIPT? NEWS AGENCY PHOTO: IMAGE BANK SATELLITE CONNECTIONS STOCK EXCHANGE LISTINGS TELESELECTION EMERGENCY SERVICE NEW YEAR’S EVE NUMBERED SEATS SPECIAL MAINTENANCE STATION CANOPIES INFORMATION DESK UNLIMITED MILEAGE CORRIDORS FITNESS CENTERS ADVERTISING SPACE TRAFFIC DIVIDERS 24-HOUR SERVICE CLAIMS OFFICE DIVIDER PANELS WORKSTATIONS PEDESTRIAN CROSSINGS REMOTE MEDICAL TREATMENT TV NEWS FREE TIME MINI-VANS DRINK INCLUDED IN TICKET PRICE TRAIN RESERVATIONS RADIO-TAXI EXPRESS TRAIN SURCHARGE ADVANCE LIST COLD BUFFET STUDIO APARTMENTS FOLDING SEATS RAILROAD CROSSINGS INFORMATION OFFICE CATALOGUE AVAILABLE REVOLVING DOORS GRAPH PAPER STOCK TRANSACTIONS TREASURY BONDS SPERM BANK ARTIFICIAL INSEMINATION D. O.C. VISTA POINT BUMP PLASTIC SURGERY ALLERGIC PHENOMENA CUSTOMS BORDERS INTERNET PRESSRELEASE CLOSING TIME DISCOUNT STORE COMPLETE CHECK-UP WHEEL ALIGNMENT SATELLITE CONNECTIONS SUPERCONDUCTORS WEATHER CHANNEL SPACE TRASH INCINERATORS TERRITORIAL WATERS LIMIT CONTROL TOWER CNN LEAVE A MESSAGE AFTER THE TONE PASS CHECK-IN ELECTRONIC SPEED CONTROL PICTURE POST CARDS PAVEMENT SIGNS BEING REPAINTED CONTROLLED ATMOSPHERE SPEED TRAP LANDING RUNWAYS BIRTH CONTROL CLUB MEDITERRANEE FREE TICKETS AIR CONDITIONING WORKS IN PROGRESS PRESSRELEASES TIMETABLES CHECK POINTS FREIGHT YARD CARD NOT ENABLED DOUBLECLICK NORTH BARRIER SYSTEM ERROR CLONING FM CB VESUVIUS MAGNETIC FIELD SCALE 1:100,000 HIGH VOLTAGE NON-NUCLEAR COMMUNITY PROTECTED AREAS COUNTDOWN INDUSTRIAL WAREHOUSES NON-RESIDENT RENTAL FREEPOSTCARD DISPLAYUNITS FORRENT AIR CORRIDORS SATELLITE CITIES AUTHORIZATION FROM-TO LUNCH BREAK DOGS ON LEASHES SMOKING SECTION X-RATED PASSIVE EXERCISE FREE VACATION UNPAID WORK PRESS CONFERENCE DISCOTHEQUES EMERGENCY SWITCH TAKE-OFF AND LANDING STRIPS SHORT WAVES NAVIGATION ROUTES BANK CREDIT FLIGHT SIMULATOR PUBLIC WINDOW FOREIGN EXCHANGE EMERGENCY LANES APPROVED SYSTEMS HIGH BEAM HEADLIGHTS TAXIS TRAFFIC CIRCLES UNUSED AREAS DIFFERENTIATED WASTE COLLECTION STREET CLEANING METER READING TELEPHONE COUNTER PEDESTRIAN ZONES GENEROUS FINANCING QUARTZ CHRONOGRAPHS MICROPROCESSORS DIETARY SUPPLEMENTS ANTIDEPRESSANT DRUGS SOCIAL CENTERS RAILROAD CARS UNLEADEDGAS CONTAINER SHIPS INTERCHANGES INTERPORTS NO ACCESS ELECTRONIC ALARM SYSTEMS CLAUSTROPHOBIA STRUCTURAL VIBRATIONS RESEARCH LABORATORY HUMAN GUINEA PIGS GENETIC MANIPULATION COMMERCIAL COLONIZATION PLASTIC BAGS RECYCLABLE PLASTIC WEBPAGES SIMULTANEOUS INTERPRETING SAFETY EXIT RECYCLING RANDOM ACCESS MEMORY TURBO ONLY CHILDREN DEMOGRAPHIC CONTROL ULTRASOUND G7 LEGAL SIZE BUSINESS CARD MUSICAL SAMPLES DEPOSITS FOR CONTAINERS SOFT SHOULDER ROADSIDE COST ESTIMATES TOUR OPERATORS CENSORSHIP PREFABRICATED BUILDINGS DIGITAL THERMOMETERS HIGH SPEED PLAYGROUNDS STOP: STATION AHEAD HAVE A GOOD JOURNEY WITH VIACARD COIN-OPERATED BINOCULARS PANORAMIC VIEWS PRODUCTION SCHEDULES STAND-BY SHOPWINDOWS COMPANY GIFTS GREENHOUSES PARTITION WALLS FENCES CONTAINMENT WALLS SHUTTLES EVERYTHING INCLUDED BEEPS EMERGENCY BRAKE TURNKEY SUPPLEMENTARY LEVIES OBLITERATION SELF-DESTRUCTION END OF THE LINE EJECT BANKS DAMS PAUSE RECEPTION DESK SKELETONS OF BUILDINGS ARMS MANUFACTURERS BUILDING SITES RADAR COVERAGE SUBURBAN SUBDIVISIONS DECORATIVE SHEET METAL REMOTE CONTROLLED MISSILES HEAT-SEEKING MISSILES PEAK HOURS JET LAG HANGOVER SEWAGE SYSTEMS FREE ADS COFFEE TABLE MAGAZINES PHOTO ID CHARTER FLIGHTS ONLINE DATABANKS ATLANTIC CROSSINGS INSTRUMENT NAVIGATION CARPET BOMBING HELLO? CAMOUFLAGE CHEMICAL INDUSTRIES PHARMACOLOGICAL RESEARCH LOCAL ANESTHETIC URBAN WASTE COLLECTION TWO SECONDS PANTONE SCALE TYPOGRAPHICAL SETTINGS POST OFFICES CRUISING SPEED CONTROL SYSTEMS LIGHT POLLUTION ADVANCED CONCEPTS BASEMENTS ACOUSTIC INSULATION BAGGAGE DEPOSIT RAISED FLOORING MARKET SURVEYS CABLE TENSIONERS MHZ CONTAINERS UNMARKED POLICE CARS TUGBOATS DOWNTOWN PIAZZA DUOMO HANGING GARDENS RIVER BARGES SEMI-TRAILERS INTERNATIONAL EXPRESS COURIER INTERMODAL TERMINAL RAILROAD CONVOYS CISTERNS SILOS CARGO CENTER GOODS STORAGE AUTOMATED WAREHOUSES GOODS HANDLING AREAS ROAD TRANSPORT STATION PARKING EMBARKATION POINT CONVEYOR BELTS CRANES INTERNATIONAL ARRIVALS WATERWAYS ACCESS RAMP SELF-BEARING STRUCTURES PASSENGER DE-BOARDING DANGEROUS CURVE MEDICINS SANS FRONTIERES ENVIRONMENTAL RECOVERY DEFORESTATION FAST REWIND MASTER MIXERS COMPATIBLE INTERFACES OPTICAL READER POST BOX NUMBERS INSPECTION WELL TIME ALMOST UP ALUMINUM WINDOW FRAMES PESTICIDES BIRD-WATCHING WILDLIFE DOCUMENTARIES ELECTRONIC WINDOW SHADES MAKEUP SATELLITES LED RENTALS COLUMNS OF MERCURY CORE BORING APPROVED SYSTEMS HIGH DEFINITION LOW RESOLUTION NOISE POLLUTION ORGANIZED TOURS MAGNETIC SUPPORTS WOULD YOU LIKE THE TRANSACTION SLIP? MULTIPROCESSORS UNDO SLOW – MOVING VEHICLES FULL IMMERSION INSURANCE POLICIES YIELD RIGHT OF WAY PRECAUTIONS WAITING LIST MEMBERS ONLY DELIVERY SPEED ELECTRONICALLY CONTROLLED GENERATION GAPS PROGRAMMING TIME SLOTS RATINGS NO PARKING ANYTIME OFFICE HOURS HAPPY HOUR SLOGANS PRESS OFFICE REC MUTE CLEARANCE SALES BREAKWATERS NIGHTSTICKS ACCESS LANES HEAT SEEKING POWER GENERATION PLOTTER BACKGROUND NOISE BY FAX
and insights they may offer regarding space and the environment.4
Secondly, I looked to Participatory Appraisal to see how an existing methodology developed to empower adults in communities in the majority of the world could be applied to young children. The
concept of ‘voice’ was important here. These tools have been designed to give voice to those who are disempowered. In an international development context these methods acknowledge that local people are the ones best equipped to know about the lives lived in their own places.
Inevitably there have been some challenges as to whether these techniques have been used to bring about effective change. However, as a theoretical starting point this view of competency was of interest to those I consulted with at the formative stages of this study. It was the assumed competency, which led to the development of imaginative methods that enabled often-illiterate adults to communicate their local knowledge within Participatory Appraisal methods. This same trigger has been the spur for developing the Mosaic approach with young children.
Thirdly, my background in early years education led me to consider notions of competency and young children, referring to pedagogical frameworks in their totality. The pre-schools of Reggio Emilia, a region in Northern Italy, have strongly influenced this study. The theoretical framework for these early childhood institutions, established by Loris Malaguzzi in the 1940s, is one of the ‘competent child’ working within a rich and supportive childcare environment.
Educators in Reggio refer to an image of the child as a ‘rich child’ who is strong, competent and active. This view is reflected in the architecture of Reggios’ childcare centres and in the child-friendly city itself. The relationships, the routines and the pedagogy, all speak of an integrated approach to designing the architecture. Learning is seen as a collaborative process in which adults and children search for meanings together: ‘We construct the meaning of school as a place which plays an active role in the children’s search for meaning and our own search for meaning, shared meanings’.5 In this regard the architecture is a fundamental element of this knowledge and search for social cohesion within the city and the spectacularly successful welfare of young children in Reggio.