The Boundaries of Heterotopia. Examining the Playground's "Public Value" in Contemporary Athens

Pitsikali, Alkistis (2018) The Boundaries of Heterotopia. Examining the Playground's "Public Value" in Contemporary Athens. Doctoral thesis, Northumbria University.

Text (Doctoral thesis)
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Literature depicts children of the Global North withdrawing from public space to occupy special enclaves. This thesis focuses on one of these spaces, namely the public playground. Specialised spaces not only segregate children from the public realm but also exclude the public realm from children’s places. This study explores the potential of the playground as a place of interactions between different age groups examining its Public Value.

Drawing on an ethnographic study comprising observations and interviews carried out in three public playground sites in Athens, Greece (Dexameni, Ilioupolis, Vyronas) this study aims to understand the ‘Public Value’ of the playground. This is explored in the context of Athens by researching the playground’s interactions with the public realm.

The theoretical framework of heterotopia, defining spaces of ‘alternate ordering’, is used to better understand the playground space. Existing literature approaches the playground as a heterotopia without exploring its reciprocal relation to its surroundings or its context. This study uses heterotopia as a tool to describe processes and potential, while connecting the spatial and the social.

The findings evidence the dual identity of the playground as both space of containment and discipline, and also a space of transgression and empowerment. The majority of existing literature reads the playground space as a play-accommodating, self-contained structure. This study unravels relations, interactions and connections with the playground’s socio-spatial surroundings. Of particular significance is the finding that the playground’s presence catalyses playful behaviour in adjacent public space for both children and adults, bearing a Public Value that is not dependent on its spatiality. Issues raised through this research contribute to the broader debate about how to support play and public interaction in both public space and the playground space. The study contributes to the fundamental understandings of the workings of the playground as a heterotopia, introducing the notions of the “Sequential Heterotopia” and “Heterotopic Affordances”, while proposing the “play complex” as an approach to facilitating intergenerational play in the public realm. Finally, this study states the importance of familiarizing the public with the children as much as introducing children to the public.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Ethnography, Play, Public-space, claiming one's right to the city, children's geographies
Subjects: K900 Others in Architecture, Building and Planning
L700 Human and Social Geography
Department: Faculties > Engineering and Environment > Architecture and Built Environment
University Services > Graduate School > Doctor of Philosophy
Depositing User: Paul Burns
Date Deposited: 05 Aug 2019 09:12
Last Modified: 15 Sep 2022 10:00

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