Living on a building site: Young people’s experiences of emerging ‘Sustainable Communities’ in England

Peter Kraftl, Pia Christensen, John Horton, Sophie Hadfield-Hill

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This paper examines experiences of young people (9–16) who live in new communities that are under construction. In the context of large-scale housing developments, built in England after 2000, it analyses various ways in which young people engage with life ‘on a building site’. From ethnographic research in three unfinished communities, several inter-linked themes became apparent: how young people engaged with building sites in both aesthetic and material registers; how building sites could, paradoxically, constitute places for both safer play and of significant risk; how such sites could afford sociability whilst simultaneously representing foci for intergenerational tensions. Thus, the paper contributes to studies of architecture/urban design, geographical studies of childhood, and expands a recent call for critical geographies of construction sites. In particular, we argue for the significance of building sites as important, often-overlooked times and places where meaning–making and everyday routines are fostered and normalised in new communities.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)191-199
Number of pages9
Early online date3 Oct 2013
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2013


  • Geographies of architecture
  • Urban design
  • Childhood and youth
  • Children’s geographies
  • Children’s mobilities
  • Materiality


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