Need ideas for precedents.


Hello everyone,


I am gathering ideas for my dissertation and i have an interest in researching and writing about "social sustainability in high urban density".

Acquiring theoretical information on the subject is not much of a problem, the problem is finding an already build project with people who live there. Masdar city would be interesting, but it is not completed, maybe investigating a part or a whole squatter city, slums and what can we learn from them on the subject. Maybe some high density project somewhere in developed countries, a part of Tokyo perhaps? I'm quite interested in slum cities, because of their high-density, and the social interaction of the people in the city, but how do you properly research it?

The thing is there is so much to choose from I'm completely lost in finding the right precedent to research (surveys, statistcs etc.). So I am asking for your advice and information what projects I could look into for this matter. Or maybe I am looking into the wrong things? Help would be very much appreciated. 

Feb 12, 14 2:57 am

Kowloon Walled City might be a place to start. It's since been demolished, but certainly an interesting case study into extremely high density living... and indeed the opposite of what's being proposed in UAE. I'm not sure what your argument is or what your adding by way of research, but check it out anyway. 

Feb 13, 14 12:06 am
boy in a well

maybe your problem is actually your topic. if indeed you have so much data and so many precedents how do you make the analytic leap? whats validly sustainable? what can be extracted and applied elsewhere? what counts as an actual lesson as it were? how is it measured? etc etc. could be fun. is there really a straight line between Kowloon and "social sustainability in high urban density" cough cough?

and seriously, what the fuck is a dissertation these days? a second year free semester?

I thought dissertations were shit phds did in collaboration with fucking goddamn professors with academic credentials not with anons on the interwebz.


Feb 13, 14 3:53 am

I think the key here is to choose the angle from which you want to write your dissertation. What exactly do you mean by social sustainability? Do you mean community? Do you mean commerce? What does social sustainability mean? 

I would see this project as being interesting if you were to approach it in terms of community? Perhaps it becomes about the relationships of parks (or lack thereof) in urban centers. Or perhaps it becomes about nodes that anchor a particular neighborhood or community- i.e. religious institutions, transportation centers, or markets. Maybe, it even goes beyond the formal and embraces the INFORMAL and its necessity in urban centers. Without the initial information stated above, I don't know how else to approach a suggestion. 

Feb 13, 14 8:50 am

social sustainability is a broad category.  Go watch (one of my favorite movies) "Do The Right Thing" and pay attention to the social dynamic of the characters.  You will learn more about the intricacies of a neighborhood and its relation to local commerce and urban form than by studying data from Kowloon.  Also, check out the film "City of God" before you glorify the "slums."  Its very one sided and "academia minded" to view the slum as a sustainable model of urbanism.  The slum sucks.  Its a horrible place to live that is often corrupt and over run by assholes that take advantage of the weak.  Social sustainability has little to do with architecture.  Its a product of cultural/economic dynamics- A fine tuned system that evolves over generations.  It is impossible to recreate this by simply recreating the urban form or by recreating the parameters of some far off place.  Social sustainability requires an order that is only achieved through a sort of natural selection...

Also, in the end, no society is 100% sustainable.  Social sustainability is heavily dependent upon economic and environmental sustainability as well as a reasonable level of peace (politically.)  Even the oldest and most resilient societies can be thrown into chaos overnight given the right circumstances.  

Your topic is too broad.  First you need to define "sustainable"  Does sustainable take quality of life into consideration?  A Prison may be sustainable but not desirable.  We can manintain a society with input and force, but you need to look at societies that are in a state of homeostasis or self regulating.  Your thesis should focus on quality of life, balanced with sustainability.  Does high quality of life = less sustainable?  Are there any places that have a sustainable social/political order while also offering high quality of life via education, low infant mortality/infectious disease, liberty,  etc.  Be sure to look at quality of life in a subjective way.  Look at happiness indexes..and information from the people living in the place instead of using your biased opinion. 

Also, why automatically assume that density is more sustainable?   There are tribes and small agrarian villages that have been living carbon free for thousands of years without any authoritarian structure...Why deny them the credit?  

Feb 13, 14 11:23 am

Thanks guys, your ideas and suggestions are quite helpful. The idea behind the topic that there is rapid urbanization and steady increase in population, and in the future there will be nothing but high urban density (given the fact we don't kill of each other or start colonizing space or whatever). And today's high-urban density cities are unsustainable. The idea is I want to investigate the sense of community in such places and how that can be achieved through design, because most people do not say high to each other in high rise buildings when passing each other, some may not even know their neighbors. And the way you lay out the apartments with different gradients of public and private spaces could help(maybe, maybe not). There is the Pruitt-Igoe Myth too, which kind of fits my topic.

Just fishing for Ideas here guys, the thing I need the most is a good example of a built project I could investigate closely, maybe even visit, which could either prove that design can influence communities or is it just people that make social sustainability work or a mix of both... I thought I would give this forum community a shot and actually post something here instead of just lurking around, so far so good.

Feb 13, 14 3:50 pm

I dunno, I think that the assumption that the future will look like some super dense sci-fi film is a big mistake.  I disagree  with most people that density is the solution to population growth.  Its not about how many mouths you can fit in an acre, but rather how many mouths you can fit and feed with an acre.  Take a look at James Corners book...."Taking Measures..."  It talks a lot about "fit structure" and how our society is mostly not "fitting" or in other words not being built in harmony with the land.  I would bet my left nut that the future will be less dense for a number of reasons.  Possibly an overall greater average density, but with less super dense pockets like Kowloon.  More dispersed and more integrated.  I don't see that density is more sustainable because of a simple principle in ecology called "resource space."  We can only sustain x number of deer in a given area...The land has a resourse limit, and when we pack the land with a higher density and exceed that limit all we do is outsource the support mechanisms.  We essentially build up big industry to resolve our lack of integration with earth.  This has dire consequences that we are just now starting to realize.  My theory is that we ought to reach the best density for a given area rather than the max density that gravity will permit.  Of course technology can increase resource space by increasing output and efficiency....IMO social, economic, and environmental sustainability can only be achieved by localizing production of food and energy.  If we continue to outsource we will never be able to build a sustainable economy and consequently a sustainable social order.  Sustainability is all about resiliency.  Resiliency is achieved by decentralization and diversity.  The centralized production system that we have is very fragile and therefore the entire society is fragile.  s  Social sustainability will go out the window once the cental electric grid breaks, or once the oil stops flowing.....Our social order is being held up by a thin string that could snap at any time.  The key to your success imo is to figure out ways to add many more "strings" so that if one breaks we will all still be ok.  To design for social sustainability is like designing for peace without first sorting out issues that cause constant turmoil...Peace, social sustainability, etc....are results of a stable system.  They are the bi-product of a healthy society.  The goal should be to make the system healthier....and the rest should follow.

Feb 13, 14 5:31 pm

jla-x, I agree about the fact that cities need resiliency and decentralization, and high-density does not mean ultra high towers, but adequate spaced courtyards, rooms, corridors and such in an area. I wrote about this last year in a shorter essay, this year I need to leave the "bigger picture" and to analyze something in more detail, I am very interested in environmental psychology, and psychology in general, also some sociology fits my topic this time, so that's what I want to look into, how people could feel adequate and safe with a sense of community in high-density (less crime, more control, private-public, visual connectors etc).

Feb 15, 14 4:37 pm

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