William Toohey III


Pathways between Home and School: Urban Design for Childhood

Advised by Stephen Gray

In 1996, the United Nations Children’s Fund launched The Child Friendly Cities Initiative (CFCI), “to respond to the challenge of realizing the rights of children in an increasingly urbanized and decentralized world” (UNICEF, 2018). As contemporary architects, urban designers, and planners seek improved understanding of their roles and projects, there emerges an opportunity to advocate for child-centered global agendas by realizing goals at the local level. Focused around health, education, and affordable housing, this urban design thesis is interested in adapting existing suburban infrastructure to better meet the needs of children from low-income housing developments and households in the United States. An analysis of relationships between three different local housing developments in the City of Portsmouth, New Hampshire (Gosling Meadows, Wamesit Place, and Winchester Place Apartments) and three respective elementary schools (New Franklin, Dondero, and Little Harbour) reveals two primary concerns for the urban designer: firstly, the proximity and lack of pedestrian infrastructure between home and school makes it difficult and rather unrealistic for children and adolescents to actively commute; and secondly, diverse programmatic elements that structure fun and healthy places are absent in low-income areas of the city, often with more gas stations and highways than crosswalks and spaces for recreation. Pivoting on the complexity of socioeconomic structures, learning and child-developmental inequities, behavioral and health challenges, and the often neglected voice of children in the American democracy, this thesis offers an agenda to center suburban and urban development on the development of the child.

William Toohey III, MAUD. A stylized site plan showing parking lots, buildings, sports fields, and wooded areas.
William Toohey III, MAUD. Families meander along a path that leads to the Greenleaf Community Center.
William Toohey III, MAUD. Sited close to existing public housing, a sensory path leads children and families to a proposed K-5 elementary school.
William Toohey III, MAUD. A theoretical framework helps connect urban design strategies to broad categories of concern for child development.
William Toohey III, MAUD. Five organizing principles help guide child-centered urban development in the City of Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
William Toohey III, MAUD. A sectional perspective reveals how a denser, child-centered neighborhood fits into its suburban-American context.