The geography of interacting with neighbours : a look at social interaction and residential built form
Montford, Judith Elizabeth
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The design of the residential environment can affect social interaction and positive interaction between people is identified as good for mental wellbeing. Studies which have looked at how the residential environment affect social interactions have revealed that certain residential built form types are apt to influencing more interaction than others. Currently, the evidence is: medium to low density with some features is favourable to social interaction. However what is missing in research is an identification of how (manner) interaction actually arises, where (a look at the spaces) it happens and why (the motives) that might be so. Such detail is important to influence policy decisions on making friendly residential spaces which enhance positive social interaction. This research therefore explored how residential environments in Edinburgh, i.e. the dwelling and spaces around it influence positive social interaction (with the notion that environments that encourage social interaction also enhance health and wellbeing). With health reports’ still branding Scotland as the ‘sick man of Europe’ Edinburgh is considered an appropriate context to study; secondly there is lack of research of this kind in Scotland. Two residential areas were selected and in-depth information on social interaction was gathered from a sample based on their extensive use of the residential environment. E-data and visual data collection methods among other traditional methods like interviews were adopted. These methods enabled useful data on how, where and why social interaction happens to be collected. The findings of the study show that: when people have a control over outdoor spaces close to their private dwelling irrespective of the dwelling type, this facilitates willing and positive interactions, an important element for mental wellbeing. Tenement dwellings therefore did not encourage much social interactions. This was because of the lack of control the tenement dwellers had over spaces around their private dwelling due to design issues. The outcome of the research will be useful for built-environment professionals. It will give them an insight into how ‘day to day real life’ social interaction happens and features and factors within the physical framework of the residential environment that trigger positive interactions. The study approach opens up methodological innovations required to embark on research of this kind. This is useful for planning for social sustainability, an essential objective in planning for salutogenic environments in spatial planning practice at present and for the future.