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The Social Life of Urban Blocks: Density’s Effect on the Liveliness of Public Spaces

Part 1 Dissertation 2019
Aston Oakes
University of Reading | UK
Urban Blocks form one of the most fundamental physical components of urban areas, and they can vary greatly in terms of size, shape, building forms, circulation arrangements, and density. The effects of the morphology of the urban environment on its inhabitants are widely acknowledged. However, the effects of the variety of uses within Urban Blocks on social liveliness is much less documented.

This paper investigated relationships between the density of different uses and public amenities in Urban Blocks and the liveliness of the public spaces and streets that they contain, with the city of London as a case study. The activities of the
public in two comparable Urban Blocks were recorded, focusing on the volume of footfall, static activities and social interactions as measuring tools. The data was then analysed in comparison with the density of dwellings and public uses to assess the possible relationships. The paper introduced two novel measurement ratios in order to suggest a means of quantifying social liveliness.

The results of the study suggest that Urban Blocks with more public uses foster more lively public spaces, and that continued research on a city-wide scale could reveal methods for improving the social qualities of the urban realm.

Aston Oakes

Carolina Vasilikou
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