How does a neighborhood density influence its residents' well-being
Nowadays, we live in a busy world that brings people together more often and makes them live in communion, accept each other and find things that connect them. The spaces and environments where we live or work influence our lifestyle and the way we think, but also our behavior and motivation to act. Thus, knowing these things, we will choose more careful the place where we will live, pay attention to both the house and the neighborhood it is part of.
Why is personal space important
In his book, Social Psychology: Theories, Research, and Applications, Robert S. Feldman identifies three patterns that explain why we need our own personal space. The first one, overload model, is based on the idea that when the others are very close to us, their voices seem stronger, we can better observe their faces, distinctive marks and features. Therefore, we are over-stimulated at a sensorial level with information that must be processed cognitively. The study confirms that the invasion of personal space is connected to the growth of physiological stress, that we can keep under control if we respect our bodily need to delimit our own personal space, as well as the others.
On the other hand, personal space makes us feel safe, protects us from potential threats, unwanted stressful stimuli that can occur when the other get close to us. Thus, preserving personal space by maintaining a distance, but also the free choice on whom we allow or not to enter in it, will help us regulate the level of stress in this regard.
The third identified pattern is about the personal space with a communication channel function, as our personal spaces communicate about the nature of our relationships. This pattern is connected to other nonverbal behavior, like visual contact and body orientation, and helps to control the type of message we want to send to those with whom we interact.
Therefore, personal space plays a very important role in our relationships with the others, which will influence our well-being and the way we refer to the community we are part of, as well as to the spaces contained in it in the environment in our vicinity. It is a factor that we will take into account when we refer to the urban density and the way it generally affects us at both socially and personal level.
How we adapt our lifestyle to the existing density
There are many arguments for increasing density, but in the actual context of global warming, rapid urbanization and lower resources of the planet, it is necessary to learn how to use more efficiently the existing infrastructure. In this way, we will use better the resources we have – more exactly the available space – and we will get optimal yield with what we build.
The greater density taken as such will not offer us better lives, because no real benefit comes from crowding people just because it is more efficient in terms of space. The true urban quality comes from the density and diversity of types of buildings and uses in the same place. Thus, even those who have different visions or are in contradictory positions can coexist and can enjoy the advantages of co-habitation, as long as they are included in an urban frame that allows them to be good neighbors.
That is why the city must create favorable circumstances by which its inhabitants enjoy living together and cherish life together.
How we achieve optimal neighborhood density in urban settlements
If we use different construction typologies, with spaces that perform as many functions, we will get another vision on urban living. In fact, all studies show that buildings function surprisingly well at low and average height, demonstrating that there is no need for greater height to achieve higher density.
The lifestyle that urban areas inspire attracts us and gives us openness towards all the facilities of a modern life, which are just a short walk around the block away. The great density of cities is created because people are drawn by the comfort of having everything in the proximity of their house. Practically, they became able to compromise on their personal space, accepting others in their immediate vicinity as a natural part pf their existence.
Nevertheless, few of us know how to question or evaluate the social or ecological consequences of different built forms. We must ask ourselves how the built form succeeds in supporting daily life and measure correctly the success of urban form. This is made depending on the quality of life it ensures for its inhabitants, but also depending on its resilience and adaptability to the constant changes in society, environment and economy.
We should pay more attention to the relationships a certain built form generates in the surrounding environment and see how well they can connect people to physical resources of the city by offering access to useful functions, things and places. Moreover, we should observe if for people it is easier to connect with the environment, so they can live in harmony with these times. And, last but not least, to investigate how easy it is to connect to each other and if the city offers these opportunities for pleasant meetings and social opportunities. In the case in which we can get a happy combination of all these aspects, we will see that the density of a neighborhood will generate harmony at the level of satisfaction on living, daily activities and social interactions.
Therefore, an inhabitable area, resilient and dynamic, with high density, should have: a diversity of built forms and outdoor spaces, flexibility, human scale, accessibility, a feeling of control and identity, a pleasant microclimate, a lower carbon footprint and a greater biodiversity. All these can be found in h4l neighborhoods: these are spaces in which it was built much less than it would have been indicated by the gender urban typologies, for people to enjoy their personal space, their homes and their classification in welcoming, harmonious and carefully built neighborhoods.