Machi-Work: Education for Participation
Adams, Eileen and Kinoshita, Isami (2000).
Tokyo: Fudosha; 114 pages. $24.95. ISBN 1858562333.
This book is the result of a collaboration from 1994 to 1999 between two international leaders in child environment research and design– Eileen Adams from the United Kingdom and Isami Kinoshita from Japan. Through their previous research, design work and writing, each has separately contributed a large body of knowledge about the role of education in design and planning. Machi-Work combines their extensive experience to present a unique international perspective on the role of education in involving children in the making of places. It is an engaging and accessible volume that should enjoy a wide audience among designers and educators as well as the general public.
Machi-Work balances descriptive narrative with critical evaluation to examine environmental education. While rich in examples and case studies, the voices of the authors about the limits of children’s participation and education are evident throughout. Too many recent books only applaud the benefits of environmental education and pass over the limitations of children’s participation in design and education. Adams and Kinoshita, however, are honest about the limits of the culture of childhood today and see children and youth as full partners in the design and planning process.
According to the authors, “machi means town, but in the sense of the community and well-being, as well as a physical settlement” (64). “Machizukuri conveys the concepts of town planning, community design and developmentall in one word” (64). They effectively argue that these terms need to be brought into the English language just as the French term milieu and Scandinavian term miljø combine people and the environment as an inseparable concept.
The book is divided into three parts: a brief discussion of thetheoretical background underlying the authors’ work, an informativesection of case studies from the UK and Japan, and a final section ontechniques and strategies. I found Part Three to be the most originalas it presents concepts that are useful in any situation where adultsand children work together to transform their local environment.Perhaps the greatest strength of the book is the comparative nature ofthe text and illustrations and the opportunity it provides to viewmethods and concepts in different cultural contexts.
Published in both English and Japanese, the book reflects theinternational flavor of the work. Included are well-chosen photographsand plans of projects the authors have done with children in bothcountries. One minor drawback of the book is that some of the materialpresented in Japanese, such as Hart’s adaptation of Arnstein’s ladderof participation, is not presented in the English text. Another limitis that the nature of the collaboration between Adams and Kinoshita isnot clearly described. These, however, do not diminish from the powerof the work as model for future of child/youth-environment researchwhere case studies are conducted across diverse settings.
Machi-Work is an excellent example of how children’sparticipation has matured from its romantic period to a more realisticand effective period of proactive practice. It should join classicssuch as Colin Ward’s Child in the City (1978), Roger Hart’s Children’s Experience of Place (1978) and Robin Moore’s Childhood’s Domain (1978) on the bookshelves of anyone concerned with children and youth environments.
Center for Design Research University of California at Davis
Mark Francis, FASLA, is a professor of landscape architecture and the director of the Center for Design Research at the University of California at Davis. His work is concerned with the theory and design of urban and community landscapes. Trained in landscape architecture and urban design at Harvard and Berkeley, he is also a practicing landscape architect. He has received numerous awards for his research and design projects and is also an associate editor of the Journal of Architectural and Planning Research.