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Providing Suburban Youth with Positive Housing Experiences in their Neighborhood

Benjamin A. Shirtcliff

The population of adolescents living in suburban environments over urban environments is pervasive and yet remains a relatively new construct for the design professions to consider—presenting a gap in how the physical environment is designed to meet their needs. This paper discusses the basic needs of suburban adolescents and suggests how designers can improve their quality of life by creating places of retreat within their neighborhood. Values and needs specific to suburban adolescents are used to assess the quality of suburban open spaces. The focus of this paper is on the physical environment, with background supported by studies from the fields of psychology, sociology, and environmental psychology, history of urban change, and theory and practice in landscape architecture. A case study of a New Urbanism development serves as the critical basis from which real open spaces are reviewed in light of criteria drawn from the literature.