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School of the Built Environment
Faculty of Technology, Design and Environment
This ground breaking volume raises radical critiques and proposes innovative solutions for social sustainability in the built environment. Urban Social Sustainability provides an in-depth insight into the discourse and argues that every urban intervention has a social sustainability dimension that needs to be taken into consideration, and incorporated into a comprehensive and cohesive ‘urban agenda’ that is built on three principles of recognition, integration, and monitoring. This should be achieved through a dialogical and reflexive process of decision-making. To achieve sustainable communities, social sustainability should form the basis of a constructive dialogue and be interlinked with other areas of sustainable development. This book underlines the urgency of approaching social sustainability as an urban agenda and goes on to make suggestions about its formulation.
Urban Social Sustainability consists of original contributions from academics and experts within the field and explores the significance of social sustainability from different perspectives. Areas covered include urban policy, transportation and mobility, urban space and architectural form, housing, urban heritage, neighbourhood development, and urban governance. Drawing on case studies from a number of countries and world regions the book presents a multifaceted and interdisciplinary understanding from social sustainability in urban settings, and provides practitioners and policy makers with innovative recommendations to achieve more socially sustainable urban environment.
In Chapter 1, we listed a number of definitions for social sustainability. These are based on a spatial element that either addresses the ‘place’ within which social sustainability themes and qualities, regardless of how they are defined, are positioned, or signifies a ‘sphere’ across which these qualities are individually and collectively perceived and comprehended. This spatiality, however, is differently implied. Approaching the city as a ‘long-term viable setting’ that can function as a ‘viable urban social unit’ (Yiftachel and Hedgcock, 1993: 140) highlights the capacity of a city to be a locality for delivering social qualities. The search for ‘equitable access to urban opportunities’ (Boschmann and Kwan, 2008: 139) has spatial implications, because the underlying prerequisite to achieve this goal is partly related to urban space and fair distribution of urban facilities across the city. From another perspective, ‘harmonious evolution of civil society’ (Stren and Polese, 2000: 15), a ‘decent quality of life or livelihood’ (Koning, 2002: 70), and ‘well-being of the people’ (Søholt et al., 2012: 256) hint at a subjectivity that goes beyond the locality as a physical setting and refers to a collective imagination in the minds of the urbanites. Despite these indirect references and spatial implications, the spatiality of social sustainability remains largely unexplored and untouched.
The idea of sustainability and sustainable development emerged during the late 1960s and early 1970s as a reaction to the growing environmental, economic, and social challenges worldwide. Two interconnected crises played a vital role in the emergence of sustainable urbanism: an ecological crisis as the result of the culmination of the environmental damages of rapid industrialization, and an urban crisis of deteriorating quality of urban life in the rapidly expanding cities worldwide (Whitehead, 2011). Although the roots of public awareness with regard to negative consequences of industrial development, urban growth, environmental degradation, social inequality, and economic injustice go back to decades before, two publications, The Limits to Growth (Meadows et al., 1972) and A Blueprint for Survival (Goldsmith and Allen, 1972), suggested serious concerns about the future of our planet. The 1987 release of ‘Our Common Future’ report by the World Commission on Environment and Development, chaired by the Prime Minister of Norway Gro Harlem Brundtland, was a turning point: the concept of sustainable development became the mainstream globally (Wheeler, 2013). Several international meetings and conferences were organized around this concept, scholars of many fields published intensively to explore its advantages and challenges, city administrations produced plans and visions for a sustainable urban future, and national and local policy documents provided strategic planning guidelines to achieve sustainable urban and regional development.
As outlined and discussed in Chapter 1, social sustainability discourse faces some challenges in areas of theory and evaluation. We begin the concluding chapter underlining the contribution of this book to these challenges.