María Elena Roldán Castro


The Infant and Parent Urban Experience: Enhancing Daily Life and Development through Personal-Scale Interventions

Advised by Allen Sayegh and Andrew Witt

Humans develop 90 percent of their brains during the first five years of life, a time where they are the most physically vulnerable they will ever be. Thus, it is both surprising and concerning that the built environment does not revolve around such a critical period. The longevity of a city and adulthood far preponderates the duration of infancy, causing architects, planners, and builders to design for the necessities and ergonomics of older and larger humans. With infant and parent ecologies more intertwined than ever before, the physical and environmental challenges a city poses ultimately pushes families to look for an easier, safer, and more affordable environment to raise a child in. 

This thesis proposes artifact solutions that make use of varied technologies and analog interactions to improve the daily life of the urban family. A review of developmental milestones, an infant proxemic analysis, and a design thinking approach for identifying problems in the urban fabric suggest that interventions at the personal space scale can significantly facilitate care, increase mobility, and improve safety. Some of the solutions are: for the micro-apartment, a furniture-scale baby station to replace the baby room; for the subway station with no elevator, a robotic self-walking stroller that can smoothly navigate stairs; for the downtown open-plan office, a task chair harness that promotes skinship while allowing parents to engage in focused work. Ultimately, these solutions make cities more accessible to both infants and caregivers.

Image of three concentric rings of illustrations with outer ring showing densely packed tall buildings, the middle ring showing a passenger train and human figures, and an empty red four-legged robotic baby stroller descending a staircase. The center ring shows two red outlined figures of human infants one atop the other.