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Title: Framing social encounters among strangers through urban design : a study of a new masterplanned neighbourhood
Author: Lopes Simoes Aelbrecht, P.
Awarding Body: University College London (University of London)
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2013
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This thesis focuses on social encounters among strangers in the public spaces of a new masterplanned neighbourhood. By doing so, this research wants to address the dominant negative critiques that argue on the one hand that public life is in decline, and on the other, that the contemporary design trends of public spaces and masterplanned environments are placeless and exclusionary places. This thesis argues that such environments can bring new knowledge on the role of urban design in framing public social life and behaviour. Methodologically, this research involved extensive fieldwork using a combination of empirical methods of observation, walking interviews and spatial analysis to study where, how and why of social encounters in various public settings of a new masterplanned neighbourhood, the Park of the Nations in Lisbon. Besides being a good illustration of current planning and urban design trends, characterized by large-scale, highly controlled and thematic public spaces, at the same time it reflects the new principles of urban compactness and diversity advocated by Jane Jacobs. The findings of my research demonstrate that social encounters do occur in new masterplanned environments and semi-private public spaces. They also suggest that more attention needs to be given to the existence of another category of informal public settings, which I call ‘fourth-places’. As opposed to ‘third-places’, this newly theorized concept is characterized by ‘in-betweeness’ in terms of spaces, uses, time and management and a great sense of publicness. These latter conditions make ‘fourth-places’ sociologically more open in order to bring strangers together. They are effective to break the ‘placelessness’ and ‘fortress’ designs of new urban public spaces. The recognition of these findings problematizes well-established urban design theories about masterplanning and redefines several spatial concepts for designing public space.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available