The complexity of designing for social mix: An evaluation of site-planning principles

Vischer, J. C.

Vischer, J. C. (1986). The complexity of designing for social mix: An evaluation of site-planning principles. Journal of Architectural and Planning Research, 3(1), 15–31.

A medium-density planned neighborhood designed for a centrally located piece of urban land in the 1970s invoked some specific social-mix targets for the residential population of some 850 dwelling units. The site plan was developed in accordance with explicit planning principles derived from the Pattern Language by C. Alexander et al. A postoccupancy evaluation of residents' status, attitudes, and behaviors suggests that the design of a successful environment for a socioeconomic population mix involves a delicate balance between privacy and community. Such a balance is more complex and requires more careful design and more subtle innovation than the simple "if-then" logic of the Patterns used in planning this neighborhood.

Main finding
Residents' responses to the design features of the development were mixed. Most respondents appreciated and valued the diversity of the neighborhood but did not find themselves socializing outside immediate neighbors. The interviews revealed an overall preference for privacy and control that was strained by the inward facing design of the buildings, which led to feelings of crowdedness and overexposure to neighbors. Semi-private outdoor spaces were either underused, used mostly by children, or fenced by residents after they moved in. The seawall, playgrounds, and pedestrian streets were the most used public places, while the park was underused. The goals of the development to foster social interaction could have been constrained by the demographic mix at the block level, rather than across the neighborhood as was originally intended. This study was done before the introduction of shops, a pub, and a community center, so a long term analysis could reveal different results.

Description of method used in the article
A stratified random sample of 212 households was used to conduct structured interviews with residents, with questions about lifestyle, household type, involvement in the planning process, attitudes about social mix and architectural design, and reasons for moving into the neighborhood. The data was analyzed using univariate and bivariate statistics.

Of practical use

Organising categories

Physical types
Geographic locations