“Social life” a research centre and innovation about communities

We believe that creating places that support local people, which are socially sustainable, matters as much as creating places that are economically and environmentally sustainable.

Our work is about understanding how peoples’ day-to-day experience of local places is shaped by the built environment – housing, public spaces, parks and local high streets – and how change, through regeneration, new development or small improvements to public spaces, affects the social fabric, opportunities and wellbeing of local areas.

We bring these insights to the process of planning, designing and managing places by working with communities, built environment professionals, public agencies and governments, in the UK and internationally.

Social Life is a social enterprise, created by the Young Foundation in 2012, to become a specialist centre of research and innovation about the social life of communities. Social Life builds on the ground-breaking work of two leading social thinkers: Michael Young, sociologist and social entrepreneur who established the Institute of Community Studiesin 1954 to bring social research to post-war urban planning; andProfessor Sir Peter Hall, one of the world’s most respected and widely-published thinkers about urban planning and former Senior Research Fellow at the Young Foundation.

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Four urban conditions of vibrant city life and reflection on megaprojects

Assuming the bellow showed Jacobs´ urban conditions of vibrant city life and that urban megraprojects tend to make urban spaces more homogenous due to the concentration of a particular service or user profile, do megaprojects kill vibrant city life in a long term?

Jacobs argues that vibrant activity can only flourish in cities when the physical environment is diverse. This diversity, she says, requires four conditions. The first is that city districts must serve more than two functions so that they attract people with different purposes at different times of the day and night. Second, city blocks must be small with dense intersections that give pedestrians many opportunities to interact.

The third condition is that buildings must be diverse in terms of age and form to support a mix of low-rent and high-rent tenants. By contrast, an area with exclusively new buildings can only attract businesses and tenants wealthy enough to support the cost of new building. Finally, a district must have a sufficient density of people and buildings.

Jacobs, J. (1961). The death and life of great American cities. Vintage.

Source

 

“Local Social perception of a mining artificial lake in Spain” my abstract for the next European Sociological Association conference in Prague

The construction of a large scale power plant in the town of As Pontes in the late seventies and the associated influx of new workers would definitely change a place that by that time was not far from many others villages that form the most genuine rural Galicia. The closure of the adjacent opencast coalmine in recent years and its conversion into an artificial lake finally defined its particular idiosyncrasies up to date. By mean a mixed methods analysis (in-depth interviews, focus group and observation), this paper aims to study the social perception of the new artificial lake among locals, while also looking at the more theoretical questions about interdependencies between natural, social and built environment. Specifically, this paper is an opportunity to build upon the legacy of the American sociologist William Freudenburg and his concept of Opportunity-threat. Results accounts for the existence of two divergent social constructions that could be associated to an old social category and identity strategies among neighbours: long term residents and newcomers. First and most dominant, a perception of the lake as both a new symbol of the town due to its grandiosity and as an opportunity for an industrial development associated to water that could bring a new boom. On the other hand, a more sceptical perception among long term residents who not only distrust about the security of the lake itself but also see a menace to the social centrality of other historical symbols of the town, as the river or the town square.

See this video to know closely the reconversion process from mine to lake in As Pontes. In Spanish, though.

 

Max Lock Centre at University of Westminster

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Judging by the research projects they carry out on urban studies as well as their approach, I find this research centre very interesting. I hope to follow them up. Find bellow the general description from their website:

The Max Lock Centre is an international development research and consultancy group based in the Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment at the University of Westminster.

We focus on international sustainable development in all parts of the world, including: public policy and professional practice in urban and regional planning, poverty reduction, management and governance in the built environment, community empowerment and building resilience and the creation of sustainable livelihoods at neighbourhood, city and regional levels.

The Max Lock Centre is committed to the principle of ‘Planning by People’. Drawing on the concepts of civic diagnosis, community participation and sustainable development, the Centre continues the tradition of multi-disciplinary grassroots planning, developed over the last 50 years by the Max Lock Group both in the UK and overseas.