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Volos Conference | Mass housing development process & play areas

Words: Assoc. Prof. Dr. Yasemin Alkiser Bregger, Selin Ciftci


Fig.1: “Levend Neighbourhood”, Brochure ,Vatan Newspaper,1955

Fig.2:” Istanbul has won new neighbourhood: Levent”, Akşam Newspaper, 1951

“The Spatial and socio-pedagogical effects of the mass housing development process in Turkey on children’s play areas”


Play is so important to optimal child development that it has been recognized by the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights (1989) as a right of every child. Play allows children to use their creativity while developing their imagination and dexterity, as well as physical, cognitive and emotional strength. Play is important to healthy brain development. Play allows children to create and explore a world they can master and conquer their fears. As they master their world, play helps children develop new competencies that lead to enhanced confidence and the resiliency they will need to face future challenges (Ginsburg, K., 2007). Piaget (1967) points out four stages of cognitive development for children, sensorimotor 0-2 age, preoperational 2-7 age, concrete operational 7-12 age and formal operational 12-18 age (Piaget, J., Inhelder, B., 1967). Chlidren play areas are generally divided into two parts for preschooler and school-age children due to play pedagogy and space and scale requirements. Smaller size spaces, less dangerous equipment and parental control in playgrounds are required for preschooler, 2-7 years old children. Children in the age group of 7-12 years in elementary school need to socialize as much as they need to perform the activities necessary for physical development. Suitable sized equipments such as seating are designed for social conversation, painting, etc.. Children aged 7 to 12 years, meaning early childhood to adolescence, is the focus of this study.

Play needs special spaces that are designed naturally or artificially. Design of contemporary play spaces tend to focus on nature. However, “play” is a lacking phenomenon in necessary and adequate spaces and regulations in today’s fast-growing cities. Children’s play areas are spaces that have an important place in the city’s memory, which is expected to be solved in the open space systems in cities.

Open / green space systems in cities have potential for children’s play areas. In developing countries, in the cities which are growing rapidly with inadequate planning, mass housing composed of apartment blocks does not have enough or convenient open space and this adversely affects the quality of play areas.

During the period from 1950 to 1980, the process of mass housing development began as a result of increasing housing shortages in the major cities in Turkey. Lifestyles and living conditions began to change. These changes had important spatial and socio-pedagogic impacts on children’s entertainment, playing habits, materials used and playgrounds. The aim of this study is to explore the changes in the children’s play areas in Istanbul; and evaluate comparatively the effects of the past, between 1950-1980, and present mass housing approaches on play areas in terms of spatial qualities and play pedagogy. The method of this study is based on mapping of mass housing and its near surroundings between the past and the recent period, interviews to include play experiences and stories from children in the past and present, and personal observations.

The spatial changes of play areas within mass housing are analyzed by mapping methods comparing location, scale, adaptation with environment, material, infrastructure, relationship with nature, flexibility, technological developments, etc. In addition, the effects of play areas on play pedagogy, are discussed comparatively through examples in the context of socio-cultural safety, neighbour relations and ecology.

Keywords: play area, play pedagogy, social housing, street, neighbourhood


Play is an important opportunity for the child to express themselves and develop mental and social skills; and has an important role in child development. The play needs special designed spaces; and also can create its own space as long as the environmental conditions allow it. Green and open areas in the cities are potantial play areas. In this case, the planning approaches in today’s developing cities are expected to allow the design of children’s play areas and contain sufficient space.

After 1950, in the major cities of Turkey , beginning of the mass housing process caused change in housing culture and affected play, playing habits, materials used and play areas.

The spatial change of play areas is analysed by mapping; in terms of location, scale, environment, material, infrastructure, relationship with nature, technological developments, etc. Moreover, the effects of play areas on play pedagogy in the context of security, neighbors relations, ecology, etc. are discussed comparatively through examples. The study areas are identified as Avcılar(Ispartakule) from recent TOKI houses and Koşuyolu from Istanbul's first mass housing from 1950-1980.

Research will provide a general perspective on the conditions of both periods and, and aims to figure out the interactions between planning approaches and play pedagogy, play areas in mass housing, while considering the importance of street and neighbourhood concepts.

Mass Housing Approaches and Development

-Period of 1950-1980

Rapid population growth in the 1950s, along with migration from rural to urban areas, has brought the problem of housing to the cities. Solutions to the housing problems were tried to be solved by mass housing in the city walls (Tekeli, 2012). However, these dwellings did not provide enough housing for low income residents, and new ways had to be found to provide cheap housing. From suggestions from abroad, a report underlined the necessity to standardize the type of structures to increase the production of affordable housing (Sayar, 1956). Since 1950, this policy for housing production for low incomes has set standards in construction, plans, materials and scale. The Ministry of Construction was established in 1958 and "Public Houses Standards" were published in 1964 (Mutdoğan, S., 2014). This standardization manifested itself in multi-story apartment blocks and lower residential buildings.

Apartments were a sign of modernization in modern cities. Apart from the traditional neighborhood life, there was a different structure in apartment buildings that allowed different individuals to live together in economic, social and cultural terms (Gökmen, G., 2011) The concept of "neighborhood", became one of the promises of the new housing policy on mass housing (Vatan Newspaper, 1955; Akşam Newspaper,1951) (Fig. 1-2)

From this point of view, it is especially important how the street, which is a part of the neighborhood culture, and the play culture associated with it individually, change in this new neighborhood understanding. The neighborhood has a direct impact on the play culture and influences the things children do. Constraints of neighbourhood environment can deprive children of basic rights of childhood: the right to experince and explore the world around them safely and spontaneously (Berg,M., Medrich, E., 1980). It was useful to examine habits and games of the 1950-1980 period to analyze the spots and potential of children's play areas in these first mass housing houses.

-After 1980

The 1980s were the beginning of neoliberal policies. The change of urban areas, residential and residential areas gained momentum. Istanbul created a visible spatial "model" of this change with new forms of construction and large mass housing (Arslan, H., 2014). Similar to process of the 1990s and 2000, urban transformation projects were created. This process in slum neighborhoods in or around the center of Istanbul was mostly caused by increasing land prices, increasing commercial value of slums and the construction of mass housing projects in the large closed sites which increased land prices in the region (Göral, S.,2011). With Law 6306 in 2012, urban transformation projects gained a new dimension (Daşkıran, F., Ak,D.,2015). In addition to urban transformation projects, new mass housing areas began to be constructed where social facilities were needed in the city walls simultaneously, and services such as education, health, transportation and infrastructure were included.

Play Areas and Pedagogical Effects

In order to compare and evaluate the past and present situation of play culture and play pedagogy, it is necessary to look at the tendencies of child education and play pedagogy in two different periods. The features of the play culture are evaluated according to play, material, place, and pedagogical characteristics. (Fig. 3) and (Fig.4).

-Period of 1950-1980

The post-1950 period, a transtition between new socialization process of neighbourhood and apartment block development process, is important to show features of traditional play culture. Characteristics that defined the traditional play culture; the fact that most of the games are in groups, the games are usually played in open areas, most of the games include movement, the close friendship of play and the well-defined social relations(Solmaz, F., Yüksel, H., 2012. Similarly, Jessen (2003) investigated the influence of the media on play heritage, showing that social play in traditional play culture is frontal, children gain the play culture through cultural tranmission and by the influence of this. They have a play culture which is more natural and support their own creativity (Jessen, C., 2003).

Partridge (1988) emphasized that the play theraphy contributes children social, political, intellectual and physical education. This provided to children positive enthusiasm and a long term learning wish. Playing outside contributes not only to physical ability, but also to language, mathematics, and science skills, as well as inquiring questions (Partridge, S., 1988). Wright (2005) stated that this gives children a sense of the natural world's consciousness and liking. In terms of material selection, he supported traditional gaming culture again and stated that open source materials (sand, water, and other natural objects) provide children more opportunities to build their own games and develop creativity (Onur, B. and N. Çelen, 2002).

Savaş Sönmez, a child in 1950s, explained that period: "In our neighborhoods there were plenty of open spaces and games played according to the seasons on the streets. In the winter there were seasonal games such as sledding, in the spring, kite flying, autumn walnut collecting. For girls, mixed rope horses, hide and seek, hopscotch, and dodgeball were played jointly. We played ball, soda and cigarette lids. The bicycle was not yet become fashionable, but we used to rent them “(Sönmez, S., 2015).

Likewise, Cengizhan Cengiz, who was a child in the 1970s, emphasized that the best part of being a child was "freedom". "All the corners, gardens, streets, and parks were owned by us. The houses with gardens were replaced by apartments, and the streets were left to the hegemony of cars". Cengiz said, "We were either in school or in the street; our mothers would send us to the streets if we were at home” (Cengiz, C., 2013). Aysel Arslan, who was a child between 1950 and 1980, identified 70 different games and play materials obtained from natüre such as wood and stated that playing was not individual and children played mostly in streets and gardens (Arslan. A., 2017). (Fig. 3).

Fig.3:” Features of Play Culture between 1950-1980

-After 1980:

The apartment is different from the independent housing as a residential model that offers a living space for different people and families and created a new housing culture with common life rules, standards and habits (Gökmen, G., 2011). Particularly in the post-1980 period, the powerful influence of the apartment blocks on the "modern residential culture" reflected in the neighborhood-related playing culture. It can be seen there are fewer group games, the destruction of freely created games, the transfer of children and play to the interior, lesser relationships with children of different ages, individualization and everyday life that is in conflict with changing social relations. To summarize, the naiveness of traditional children's plays has been left to the instrumental power of industrialized plays. Modern children's play was compressed into closed spaces due to consumption market, excessive population, urbanization, and heavy traffic; the natural playgrounds began to disappear. Freely chosen games turned into tools with scientific understanding, and the play has caused the destruction of freedom (Inal, K., 2007). In traditional play, children play games where they can find their play materials naturally, mostly with their friends in the streets, but in the modern period, this situation has reversed with the influence of technology. The digitalization of the playing world has made it a consumer market, and games and toys have become consumption objects (Jessen 2003). The number of digital games played in Turkey in 2016 reached 30 million (Digital Gaming Congress, 2017). The digitalization of the gaming world has made it a consumer market (Jessen 2003). In a study conducted by Holman and colleagues (2005), it was found that the social development of the children who spend their time with the internet/computer games was significantly lower, their self-esteem lower, and their social anxiety and aggression higher (Kayıran, S., Cömert, I., 2010).

The concept of neighborhood has changed and this has also affected the play areas because the change of the traditional residential cultures. The change of street and neighborhood concepts changed neighborhood relations; and with the influence of technology, houses have begun to turn into new play areas for children. Shopping malls have become an alternative play area for children, as a result of that they are not affected by climate conditions, provided more safety and controlled areas. New play culture is the home or shopping center of the new place, which is standardized in both material and variety in parallel with the new residence culture (Fig. 4).

Fig.4: “ Features of Play Culture after 1980”

Mass Housings and Children Play Areas

In the planning of the selected mass housings (Koşuyolu and Ispartakule), the spatial characteristics of the playgrounds, the relation with nature, the scale, the relation with the educational institutions and their densities were investigated. In addition, play culture in current play areas are investigated in terms of games, materials, space and education.

-Period of 1950-1980

Koşuyolu Mass Housing:

Kosuyolu is one of the other "neighborhood" practices that took place in the early 1950s (Fig.5). In those years, 419 houses and a bazaar were constructed by İmar Limited Partnership in wheat fields to provide “cheap dwelling”. (Akbulut, 1994).

According to calculations made in the 1950s, Istanbul needed 40,000 houses immediately (Aru, 1951). In those years, Koşuyolu Housing constituted a stage of the mass housing production studies carried out to solve housing increase needs in the city (Suoğlu,R., 2010). Kosuyolu mass housing was designed with a "garden town" approach. Each house had its own garden and the height of the buildings was one or two stories. Ihringer and Ketenci (2007) mentioned that utilization of the street and the outdoor was high during the 1960s and that private gardens affected outdoor utilization positively (Fig.6). Moreover, the children spend all their time on the street, as a part of traditional play culture.

Spatial Evaluation: According to the site plan of 1964 Koşuyolu Mass Housing (Fig.7), the building blocks were placed horizontally in line with standard typologies. A school was located at the center in relation with the play areas. Although playgrounds were close to the school and its surroundings, each house had its own garden that provided alternative play areas. The low level of housing protected the neighborhood structure. In the post-1980 period, this situation changed; and this change has become obvious through standard playgrounds.

Current Status: The settlement, which is important in terms of Turkish modern architecture and history has been changed by daily changes. Although more modest compared to changes in the entire city of Istanbul, especially since the opening of the Bosphorus bridge in the 1970s, it has become a highly attractive site with gardened low-rise buildings; and this was the main effect of the change of the region (Suoğlu,R, 2010). Housing function was not preserved in Koşuyolu, and evolved into business centers. The area was transformed into a neighborhood with eating, drinking, and entertainment places. The residents who continue to live in these neighborhoods are now in a struggle. Today, I feel that there are many cars and when you are walking around the area, all you hear is car engines, instead of birds.” (Atılgan, A., 2016).

The school, located in the center of the district, maintained its function. Dwellings lost their function and gardens lost their potential as playgrounds. Children's play areas were planned in common areas defined within the region (Fig. 8). According to the cross-sections (Fig. 9), low story houses and the large garden scale led to low mass effect and readable structure. When the floor height is three meters; the ratio of the height of the building (3 meters) to the distance between the two buildings (20 meters) is 0.15.

When we examine the playing area through play culture; we see colorful swings, slides and teeters designed to do just one move. For this reason, it is defined, stable and uniform. The playground, built on an open, plastic floor, is plastic, not portable and sustainable. Pedagogically, the equipment in the park is limited and closed to change and imagination. The story height of the surrounding buildings reached 4-5 meters, the metro line and the station led to the transformation of the river, where the open sports areas were built at the site (Fig. 10).

-After 1980

Avcılar (Ispartakule-Bizim Evler) Mass Housing:

Ispartakule Mass Housing (Fig. 11), which was constructed within the scope of the urban transformation of Avcılar Tahtakale Neighborhood, was introduced with the slogan "Neighborhood Culture is Moving to the Future" (Emlak Konut), and included houses and trade areas as well as areas for public education, social facility, private health facility, religious facilities, and municipality services. It can be said that the socialising area of the region is the pool and its surroundings (Fig.12).

Spatial evaluation: According to the analysis made on Ispartakule Mass Housing site plan(Fig. 13), the settlement is spreading. There are different housing typologies with disorganized planning order. Pools and sports areas in residential groups are noteworthy. Play areas are planned to respond to each housing group and are associated with schools. When a selected play area (Fig.14) was examined over the scale mass effect section (Fig. 15), with the floor height of three meters, the ratio of the height of the building (42 meters) to the distance between the two buildings (14 meters) is 3.00. So, it can be said that the effect of the blocks on play areas is high. Additionally, open parking areas are included in site plan (Fig.16).

When examining the selected play area, we see that the standard consists of swing and slide tools designed to provide just one movement and therefore it is defined, stable and uniform. All the objects in the park, built on an open, soft, synthetic surface, are colored and plastic; not portable and sustainable. When children interact, communication is lower than in previous period street cultures. Friend needs are removed by these objects.


When the analyzes made on the samples are put in a table (Fig. 17), differences of the planning approaches of the playgrounds in the period between 1950-1980 and after 1980 can be seen. When examining the period 1950-1980, it can be said that it had a planning approach considering the period’s play culture. The sites were designed to protect the more centrally located and the neighborhood structure. The "garden-city" approach in planning to protect the neighborhood concept was an effective solution in Kosuyolu mass housing. Children's play areas were constructed in relation to centrally located schools, and the multiplicity of areas devoted to green areas were potential sites for play. In the TOKI mass housing planning approach, play areas were scattered as residential buildings, and residential blocks were composed of high-level standard typologies.

Between 1950-1980, the floor height of contemporary mass housing was considerably higher than that of today's TOKI dwellings. This ensured that green areas were spacious and open in Kosuyolu. However, after losing the function of housing in the post-1980 period, 1950-1980 Kosuyolu Mass Housing was transformed into business areas. Play areas were limited with playgrounds in terms of material, place and pedagogical and are designed similar to today's Toki mass housing. J. Brown and C. Burger (1984) argued that playgrounds should be designed for diversity. The reason for lack of child behavior in play were playgrounds which cosmetically were different but functionally identical (Brown, J., Burger, C., 1984). All are plastic, not portable and unsustainable. All were built in open spaces. Because of the standardization and functioning of materials, each of the playgrounds in the group did not offer children the opportunity to communicate socially.

As a consequence, both the changes in the planning approach and the technological reasons in public housing, traditional play cultures can be considered as important causes of change. In order to make traditional game culture sustainable, the sustainability of the neighborhood concept and the structure must be observed in the planning of mass housing. In the design of playgrounds, street culture which gives more opportunities to play should be considered.

Fig.17:” Comparison of all analysis and current play culture of play areas through examples”


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Yasemin Alkiser Bregger

Associate Professor in the Faculty of Architecture at Istanbul Technical University (ITU). She received her B.S. in Architecture from ITU in 1989, M.S. in 1992 and her Ph.D. from ITU in 2003. She was a visiting scholar at the University of Cincinnati and Clemson University , 2009-2010. Research interests include architectural design and housing issues such as urbanism, rural and urban housing, social housing, squatter settlements, housing policy, and sustainable transformation in architectural and urban scale. She is a member of the Executive Board of the Housing Research and Education Center in ITU.

Selin Ciftci

She recieved her B.S. in Architecture from ITU in 2014. During spring term of 2012, she joined the Erasmus Programme in Lisbon Technical University,Portugal. Currently, she is doing her master in Architectural Design Programme at Politechnico di Milano, Italy. She is working on “street concept approaches and diversities” in Como, and developing a project in “Como Stadium Area” . She is also interesting in art writing.


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