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Social Sustainability in the City

Rebecca Ray


Proposal: Lone Parent Family Homes and Community Facilities
Location: Portland Row, Dublin 1

This thesis investigates whether architecture and urbanism can address social sustainability in the city through careful analysis of communities and the social issues they may experience. Public architecture carries the capacity to “bind communities together” (Chatterjee, 2021). Through refined consideration, the best design strategies are conceived for their local neighbourhood context. Dublin lacks connection, and there are several instances where there are bridging opportunities. This thesis is concerned with housing for marginalized groups, specifically groups that perhaps lack acknowledgement, and designs that may improve the social sustainability of our cities. It explores how we may tackle complex inner-city backland sites, populating them with typology-specific housing designs. The research dissects the specific needs of a more vulnerable typology and aims to create a design tailored to them. Urban interventions are also investigated. Inversion techniques are utilized to create an urban realm that is permeable, productive, and encourages social interaction, play, and unexpected transactions (Levy, 2020). The urban intervention also recognizes the ‘Critical Care’ theme through the retention and adaption of an existing industrial structure.

The research advocates for a socially motivated architecture, a concept that did not emerge until the late 1940s. The thesis discusses the interaction between physical design and social design, investigating how we may design spaces that encourage social improvement. An analysis of a specific social issue that commonly occurs in inner-city contexts is dissected, and a potential spatial solution to the specific issue is examined. In this context, social improvement refers to developing a more responsible architecture that can “raise the living conditions of the masses” (Henket & Heynen, 2002, p. 10). 

“Social space is an invisible set of relationships which tends to retranslate itself, in a more or less direct manner, into physical space in the form of a definite distributional arrangement of agents and properties.” – Pierre Bourdieu (Bourdieu, 1996, p. 10).

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