Cohesive communities & walkable neighbourhoods

31 05 2011

By Harvé Dhillon

Recently, seeming a lot of our projects have included residential design, I was reading about cohesive communities and how both architecture and urban design can contribute to the social integration of residents in a positive way. Malaysia is an ethnically diverse nation with three main races and many other ethnic minorities hence the importance of its social cohesiveness and unity of people is important in order to create a stable social and economic environment. Thus, neighbourhood design has had an important impact contributing to the racial harmony of Malaysian suburbs. The simple solution is to encourage walking, by providing local amenities within walking distance such as shops, schools, community centres, health centre the of course there is better health and furthermore reduces the need to use the car. Socially, walking will encourage the meeting and greeting with neighbours and a sense of community. Planners in Malaysia have managed to create these neighbourhoods by simple and inexpensive interventions and as a result forge communities with naturally strong ties and racial interaction and integration.

  • Make pedestrian-friendly pavements mandatory.
  • Make the planting of shady trees mandatory, too.
  • Place wakaf (small huts) and simple furniture along streets to provide resting places.
  • Place schools, libraries, mosques, temples, community centres and some shops within true walking distance of clusters of houses so people are encouraged to walk rather than drive.
  • Promote bicycling by providing proper pathways as well as bicycle parking spaces.



2 responses

31 05 2011
Carlie Douglas

I think this post is very relevant to us, and I have also been looking into this for my Thesis work. There are also lots of psychological and developmental benefits to the social cohesion of a community. Forming positive social relationships with your surrounding can de-stress people, and also lead to better sleeping habits. Parents often feel safer letting their children out to play, and as a result they learn social skills that sheltered children simply do not learn. However, I think to make this applicable to the UK, these design principals should be modified to take into account the difference in the climate of the UK. For example, shady trees this far north are often a hinderance as we tend to seek out sun exposure for our deprived skin. Also, these huts for resting, I am assuming from the heat of the day, should become perhaps shelters from the rain and harsh wind that often blows. I love that you say ‘true walking distance’ as this is often a mistake that planners/designers make. The ‘ten-minute walking distance’ circles that are drawn on maps and plans often could not be farther from the truth. Especially in the UK where, seemingly, the policies have been for street networks to come really close, but not connect with each other. That said, regardless of having all of these elements present, there is no guarantee that the people will socialize and become a cohesive community. And much of it has to do with culture. Unfortunately, the best that planners/designers can do is to remove the (often very obvious) barriers and hope that this encourages people to mingle.

2 06 2011

Yeah Carlie, most urban designers remove ranges of ‘barriers’ in the hope that the sense of community could be strengthened. Recently, I read a report saying that our cherished environments are being eroded by cars and the clutter that goes with them. Although cars are very convenient mode of personal transport, they are killing our towns and cities. Meanwhile, both pedestrian and cyclists face daunting hazards in most city and town centers. Apart from risk of accidents, noise and fumes are immediately unpleasant and may cause longer term health problems. Traffic signals rarely discriminate in favor of those on foot, who often have a mere few seconds to cross in front of vehicles revving their engines in anticipation of a quick get-away when the lights change.
Pedestrian, on the whole, are not merely interested in walking; they want to go somewhere and do something. Thus, in order to keep people and related activities at street level as far as possible, the street space which is trespassed at present for traffic should be converted to pedestrian use. This may take sometimes lead to complete pedestrianization, however, widen pavements, traffic calming measures and shared vehicular/pedestrian space will be enough.

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