Gerard Heumann
Gerard Heumann

Designing for young families with children in residential towers

A bird's eye view of the Holyland complex, one of the first of Jerusalem's high-rise projects. (Nati Shochat/Flash 90)
A bird's eye view of the Holyland complex, one of the first of Jerusalem's high-rise projects. (Nati Shochat/Flash 90)

The thousands of residential towers that have already been built and are today being constructed in Israel are a relatively new phenomenon. Children and young families as residents haven’t been seriously considered. Close to 30 percent of all Israelis are under the age of 15. It seems that the subject has been overlooked. Researchers in several countries, Denmark, Australia, New Zealand and Canada for example, have begun to study the matter.

The following is an initial and brief attempt to outline some of the main issues involved, which can be divided into two categories; what needs to be done within the towers. Equally important, needless to say, is what happens in their surrounding area.

Establishing a strong connection between residents and the natural environment is all-important as it helps establish a sense of belonging to place. Providing appropriate child and family-friendly outdoor spaces — green, natural and close by public open spaces is critical if we are to support children’s well-being. Local café’s are valuable family meeting places. Café’s, if properly situated, might be integrated into a tower’s street level.

High-density housing means exposing children to heavy traffic on the streets surrounding the residential towers, on their way to school, extracurricular activities or meeting with friends. Slowing up traffic at key intersections is one strategy that has been proposed.

Appropriate indoor space for children of all ages needs to be provided with special attention given to the problems of pre-school children — “soft” spaces and the like.

With apartments in close proximity to one another, children’s noise disturbs neighbors, Acoustical devices should be incorporated as necessary. Communal play areas within a building present similar problems.

Safety considerations are of course basic. Children here have fallen from windows and terraces, seriously injured. Protective devices such as bars on windows and high railings on terraces are needed. Elevators can be equipped with cameras and speakers in case a child is in trouble.

In residential towers with many young families, communal laundry facilities may help encourage personal and inter-social relations within the building.

Clearly, much needs to be done. A far more social approach to the design of these hi-rise complexes is called for. It is time design guidelines related specifically to children’s and young families needs be developed by our Housing Ministry, our mayors made aware of this important subject.

About the Author
Gerard Heumann is an architect and town planner in Jerusalem.
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