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Loneliness, urban design, and form-based codes
I am very pleased this issue is receiving attention from Steve Price. I hope he and others will take this much further. It is an issue I addressed some time ago in my article Loneliness is Life Threatening: We Can Design Cities to Foster Community. So much more needs to be done!
The connections between social life and the form of the built environment are important for many reasons beyond relieving loneliness – for mental health, physical health, children’s social development, to prevent social pathology, to generate democratic dialogue and civic engagement, etc. See: the significance of social life in public.
So far, most researchers linking the effects of the built environment on health have focused on physical health, obesity and chronic diseases. It is high time to focus more attention on the effects of the built environment on social life because this also affects physical health. See: Planning for Healthy Living: the Next Challenge
Much more research is needed to follow up on my own work. We need to detail all the aspects of the built environment that contribute to generating social life, and weigh the comparative importance of each aspect. Price hints at how form based codes can help.
As the history of democratic city making demonstrates, a square can be a more powerful mechanism than a neighborhood main street for generating social interaction. I have outlined most of the physical aspects of the environment that need to be present in my series of twelve articles, Principles for designing successful neighborhood squares.
Habitat III’s New Urban Agenda calls for a more people-centered urban development that facilitates a more equitable living together through “quality public spaces” for “social interaction and inclusion, human health and well-being, economic exchange, and cultural expression and dialogue among a wide diversity of people and cultures, and which are designed and managed to ensure human development, to build peaceful, inclusive, and participatory societies, as well as to promote living together, connectivity, and social inclusion”. (#37)
It is heartening to see this issue taken seriously. Let’s get to work and flesh out in more detail how we can achieve these goals!