Nowadays, sustainability is misunderstood by architects through fancy expressive forms filled with lush green spaces. Whereas, it is more than just pretty facades. It is about creating a human-made ecosystem that does not target only the flow of people but, more importantly, the flow of natural resources through our cities and buildings. However, we are not starting all over again. We have an existing planet with climate, landscape, and human resources that we should take advantage of through adapting, evolving, and manipulating matter to achieve more contributory conditions for human life. Hence, I will tackle social sustainability through some guidelines, both conceptual and scientific, to create a more healthy and sustainable social life.
The conceptual principles are mainly targeting fundamental elements for designing in both Urban and Architectural scales to create a sustainable community. Moreover, these principles represent the intangible factors that can influence people towards a more creative and unified society. On the other hand, each individual reacts differently to the surrounding environment. They are the most unexpected part of the planet. Thus, these principles represent the most common and essential factors that guarantee a more engaged and healthy communal life.
A. The Human Scale: Design For People
More than half of the population of the world lives in the cities, which orients the developers and planners toward a more car-oriented and industrialized city model, which makes people lose the sense of their scale among the high-rise buildings and highways. Therefore, it is our responsibility to reinforce pedestrianism as an integrated city policy to generate more lively, safe, sustainable, and healthy cities. Consequently, through the following three qualities, we can embrace the human scale among the metropolitan cities:
- Maximizing green open public spaces to enhance community life, not only aesthetically, but also for a healthier life.
- Assuring a comfortable street experience by guaranteeing calm, less polluted, and walkable pedestrian paths.
- Prioritizing visibility through providing interactive ground floor activities as it is the most accessible part of the architecture to the street eye level.
B. Participatory Design: Design By People
We can claim that the quality of architecture is evaluated based on its sustainable usability and the degree of the user’s recognition of the building. Then, users’ contributions to the design must have a high priority. Besides, people’s understanding of the use and experience of space offers the architect a foundation of knowledge for the architectural design process. Therefore, it is a two-way process of communication between architects and users. Accordingly, society is categorized into three groups:
- Adults are the ones who have spent more time in the place. Therefore, they are more likely to have the most amount of experience that can be invested to create a better future for the young generations.
- The young generations are subjected to a wide range of sources, cultures, and technology. Thus, they are capable of coming up with the most innovative and unique visions for society.
- Children have the purest yet the most distinctive imagination. As a result, they should be provided with adequate support to develop their skills in a healthy and motivating environment.
Participatory School Building.
Participatory School Building
Mannheim, Germany, 2016.
The scientific principles represent theoretical and factual guidelines that every community needs to live, work, and interact in a sustainable city. One of the sciences that discusses this idea is Urban Sociology, which deals with the development of urban communities and their relation with society. The architects would be another approach to study and analyze social problems to contribute to their solutions in the design of buildings, cities, and territories.
1. Adaptable Cities
The population of the world will exceed 10 billion people by 2050, which will create overcrowded cities, leaving the developers with one of the most worrying issues in the present time. Consequently, theorists and architects tried to set some initial solutions to respond to this rapidly increasing growth, creating an adaptable system from the fast changes in the needs of people and communities. Thus, here are three of the main proposed strategies:
A. Compact City Model.
The city of short distances is an urban planning strategy, which promotes high residential densities along with mixed land uses. Consequently, by this model, the city can host a larger number of people with an efficient public transport system along with an encouraging layout of walking and cycling paths. Moreover, people will have better opportunities for social interactions as well as a feeling of safety.
B. Expandable Modular Architecture.
Following the same concept of creating livable spaces, the flexible modular system is the best solution to adapt to the population growth, creating unlimited possibilities for housing and communal spaces that respond to the changing needs of people, and allows everyone to express themselves freely and differently.
C. Accessibility and Transportation.
The last important point to deal with the fast-growing population is to provide the city with adequate transportation means to accommodate the capacity of the city. Moreover, different functions must be at walkable distances while maintaining livable street space with the basic needs for adequate pedestrian activities.
Superblock of Sant Antoni.
Superblock of Sant Antoni.
Barcelona, Spain, 2019.
2. Smart Cities
Technology evolves day by day with a primary purpose to solve problems before creating luxury that may not have any contribution to society. Furthermore, two of the most innovative technologies that play a vital role in complementing people’s lives are GIS and Parametric Design.
It stands for Geographic Information System, which has the capability for input, storage, manipulation/analysis, and display of spatial information. Nevertheless, it has various contributions to the urban planning and architecture fields such as land-use zoning, transportation planning, mapping growth, planning infrastructure, etc. The purpose of GIS technology is to provide developers with a precise and accurate database for their designs with the least cost and time consumption.
B. Parametric Design
Parametric Design is the term given to the process that depends on algorithmic thinking. It clarifies the relation between the design purpose and the design response. Moreover, architects can simulate endless iterations in no time to adapt to the exposure to solar energy, wind, and rain, to provide users with comfort, anywhere and anytime.
Abu Dhabi, UAE, initiated 2006.
To sum up, people are the engines that make the whole system of the city work. Therefore, all members of society must have equal opportunities to live, work, and create. More importantly, sustainability begins from the human being who is the factor that achieves the rest of the economic and environmental goals of a sustainable city.