Urban form and sense of security

This study tries to explore human perceptions of security In urban environments, by Investigating the impact of design actors in the built environment on an individual’s perception of personal safety in that space. This study was carried out within the context of an urban design study rather than within a human psychology-based study. To validate these factors a site from the traditional fabric of Mohammedan is studied and is compared with the same factors at a site in the newer fabric of the city.

The paper finally attempts to establish the relevance of the traditional urban form within contemporary city developments, in achieving better sense of security in public spaces. Understanding of the basic theme a. Deflation of Sense of security Sense of security In simple terms can be defined as a human feeling that makes the person convinced that he she is safe and secure in a particular place or context. The person with a sense of security is not feared of any force which can be a person, a group of persons or an animal or any other manmade / ‘supernatural’ force which can put them in danger (physical or mental damage).

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People develop specific fears as they learn about certain people, objects, animals or natural/ ‘supernatural’ forces. A child was conditioned to fear a white rat in the laboratory might fear even other white, furry objects Kenny P. Joy I 2 traumatic accident. For example, if a child falls into a well and struggles to get out, he or she may develop a fear of wells, heights (acrophobia), enclosed spaces (claustrophobia), or water (aqua phobia). There are studies looking at areas of the brain that are affected in relation to fear. L Variation in the definition.

The definition of sense of security varies from person depending on their age, gender, and cultural background. In all of these categories there is a weaker section which is feared of the other group or some external force, be it manmade or ‘supernatural’. In the case of gender, women being weaker by physical strength fear f attacks of men on them in form of sexual assault, rape, eve teasing etc. Whereas in the case of age, children, being weaker in physical strength, associated lack of mental maturity in understanding the reality, make them fear of adults or even ‘supernatural’ powers who can pose harm to them.

Often cultural backgrounds affect the sense of security since form, color, light, sound, smell and other characteristics which are a part of any space will have different meanings in different cultures. The concept of sense of security is not confined to people who belong to any of the weaker groups of these categories but is applicable to any person. For example an able bodied adult male who does not belong to those weaker groups, also is prone to dangers of attack or theft in the public by criminals or animals. The fact that he is also in danger, inculcates a lack of sense of security within him.

Here, when it was discussed about the about the victim of such an attack losing sense of security, we should not 1 http://en. Wisped. Org/wick/Little_Albert_experiment 3 forget that the sense of security of these criminals too are in question. They are again in a fear of danger from being caught by police. Though these are some of the basic factors that determine a person’s sense of security, sense of fear in various forms is generated in a person due to the physical character and quality of the space where he is placed.

For a person, the sense of security within an urban space is primarily linked with the level of familiarity, which means a sense of fear is generated in the person automatically in an uncertain environment. Fear can channel one’s energies away from areas of perceived threats and into directions that seem safe. Fear is a distressing negative sensation induced by a perceived threat and is a basic survival mechanism in response to a specific tumulus, such as pain or the threat of danger. Factors that determine sense of security in an urban space. Acre level to micro level. At a macro level the location and the context of the urban space of study determines the sense of security of the person using it. This factor has an impact on the way a person moves within a city through preferential selection of routes which give him a sense of security. The next factor that affects the sense of security includes characters at precinct level – legibility and permeability. Legibility of the space makes a person free from getting clueless in an unknown urban space by aging the place more graspable for the user.

Permeability helps in removing the feeling of a strange enclosure for a user in an unknown place with provision of number of visible alternative routes. These qualities are predominantly dictated by the form of the urban space. 4 Further going down into smaller levels, there are fine elements within the urban space including visual and non visual elements, which makes the space feel secure for the user. They include factors such as width of the space or street, lighting level, sound, smell, architectural details, artifacts, etc..

Besides characteristics of a space, he sense of security is also created by the kind of people who are associated with the space directly or indirectly. This dimension which comes into the picture while defining the sense of security is territorial definitions. When the territories of an urban space is defined well by the associated people through physical elements like form, character, details etc. Or non physical elements like activities, sound, smell, their cultural expressions etc. It creates a sense of non belonging or unfamiliarity (often attached with fear) for a person entering into the transition space.

Definition of an urban space that offers sense of security: The sense of security of an urban space cannot be defined in terms discreet qualities which secure a safe feeling to any particular group (weaker group) of people discussed above neither can it be defined in terms of any quality which acts at a particular scale (micro to macro as discussed above), but is a quality which is a complex of all the above mentioned factors at all scales acting upon any person at any particular time in a particular urban space.

Time become another factor defining the sense of security as various processes along he time, make the visual and non visual qualities of the space change accordingly. Time determines the type and intensity of activities happening in any urban space changing the level of sense of security throughout the day. The sense of security in urban space is relatively high when the perceived activity level of a particular urban 5 space is high for which time is a very important factor to be considered.

The lack of activities, proper lighting, attack of dogs etc create an environment in Mohammedan city wherein beyond midnight and before dawn level of sense of security will be extremely low. Since the control of built form design has little to do with the perceived sense of security during the odd hours of the night, the study limits its scope into the non – odd hours. Relevance of sense of security in urban design: Sense of security adds on to the quality of an urban space.

Proper design and effective use of the built environment can lead to a reduction in the fear and incidence of crime, and improvement of the quality of life. Recent trends and concepts of urbanism across the world, being learnt from the mistakes of the past forms of unsustainable urban development, have been stressing and demanding distance friendly urban spaces and networks to get integrated with mass public transit systems. Sense of security, therefore becomes an essential quality of the urban streets and other spaces to bring in people into walking who have once left walking and resorted to private vehicles.

Establishing the relationship of sense of security with the design of urban space Factors that determine sense of security in an urban space: The above discussion identifies two key factors whose subcategories can be listed down as the elements that determine the sense of security in the urban pace which include: The form of the urban space: This multidimensional element can be broken down into further sub elements such as street width, built form height, street enclosure ratio, building setbacks, texture of the surface, porosity of the built envelope, the size or the footprint of the buildings and permeability. Relation of the interiors with exteriors: Though the discussion is predominantly about the sense of security in urban space or the space between buildings, the spatial configuration and the relation of the interiors with the exterior spaces is an important factor. The elements which define this relationship are as follows: Compound wall, position of the entrance into the building, level difference of the ground level with the pedestrian surface level, presence of parking space in front of the building, amount of vegetation in front of the building, percentage of openings in the building elevation etc.

Validation of these factors through case studies of urban spaces in traditional urban form: To understand and validate these findings in reality, urban spaces in the traditional built fabric of Mohammedan: Teen Darwin precinct with neighborhoods around (fig 1). The dense built fabric with low rise attached built structures housing a mix of uses predominantly residential and typology plays an important role in the keeping up the perceived sense of security. Urban spaces in between purely residential built environments often interact with the pedestrians very weakly and the level of activity is very less.

This space gets activated as more and more building uses and activities like commercial or cultural activities gets inserted into it as what is seen in the site under study. The urban form is characterized by narrow pedestrian scale streets with small building footprints. The built form itself evolved out of strong social relations which in these neighborhoods. The territoriality was strongly marked by an area within which the inmates engaged themselves throughout the day – the flower shop, temple, vegetable and grocery shop, work place (often at not so far distance from the neighborhood till recent times).

The public space seeps into the residential transition 7 spaces (verandah). The presence of large openings on the building fade always gives the pedestrian a sense that people can see him or in other words gives a sense f presence of people (rather than alienated or lonely) while moving through these public spaces. The In short, the perceived level of activity is high which in turn maintains a high level of natural surveillance. This traditional fabric essentially thus maintains a high level of perceived activity throughout the day and even late hours of the night.

Fig 1 – Site map (Source – Google Earth) Fig 2 – Built form (source – Author) Contemporary scenario: Understanding the changes occurred to the urban form structured by new principles which are predominantly non pedestrian and how it affected sense of security in public spaces: The perceptions and meanings of security have changed over time as technology transformed the form of the cities and the way in which they work. The built form which was predominantly fine grained became coarser and coarser as well as loosely packed.

This transformation was in fact a product of the process of evolution of the urban form which got mutated by the insertion of automobile movements. The new age lifestyle redefined the character and qualities of living and work environments. As Kenny P. Joy I 8 making them shift to new comfortable and faster modes of movement through automobiles. This in turn affected the pattern of distribution of facilities and various building uses essentially disturbing the pedestrian scale of streets. The conventional planning principles made cities which are large grained with wide roads and segregated activity zones for different activities.

This made the Indian city devoid of it original character and vibrancy created by a vibrant mix of activities or land uses. The city became more and more complex in its physical and social systems which supported it. Crimes rates rose in new forms and the sheer number which in turn affected the notion of public space as an alien space. People took time to associate themselves with public spaces and minors generally are discouraged in using public spaces especially in odd hours. Though systems to ensure security through police or security personnel as well as technological advancements (like CATV surveillance, mobile tracking systems etc. Have been put into use in public spaces, they work in their own limitations. Moreover for a pedestrian using the public space, these systems are additional backup systems of security which still hold a second place after the basic instincts or the responses to the environment through which he / she s moving. Demonstration through a case study: The site selected for understanding the change happened in the urban form is the newly developed area on the western side of Mohammedan – Nehru Magna Junction precinct (shown in fig 3).

The site is located along BRATS corridor – a conventionally planned area in the Western side of Mohammedan city. The neighborhood and the adjoining commercial belt got developed into its current form after the insertion of the BRATS corridor in 2010. 9 Fig 3 – Site plan (Source – Google Earth) It has got a mix of housing typologies ranging from low rise apartments cluster of mall footprints as well as taller apartment complexes with few or nil commercial spaces in the ground floor.

Since the streets are designed for vehicles, the street widths are large and lack elements make them pedestrian friendly. The built form includes typically, discreet built forms forming islands (or array of islands) within open spaces unlike the previous case where the open spaces formed the islands in between the built form. The spaces between the buildings which contained human activities in the previous case became spaces of movement here. Relationship of the built form with on street pedestrian became weak due to many factors.

The built form of especially the residential neighborhoods is characterized by residential buildings separated from the street space with a compound wall needing for more privacy within the property. The low rise built forms as residences or the second Kenny P. Joy I typology found are the tall apartments which may or not have commercial space in the ground floor. A family claim to a territory diminishes proportionally as the number of families who share that claim increases. (Oscar Newman. Creating Defensible Space).

In these tall apartment blocks, the number of dwellers is so high hat, they hardly take any responsibility or rather use it considerably to a basic level of activity. This makes the space further inactive and less maintained bringing down the level of sense of security of that space. The other qualities of urban form that determine the sense of security includes permeability and variety. Conclusion This study examines the relationship and role of urban form and typology in determining the level of activity as well as natural surveillance which are the quintessential determiners of sense of security any urban space.

In above discussions on case studies, a significant trend observed is the evolution of built arms to achieve more privacy. When the built form is evolved out of a process in which pedestrian behavior, activities and his response with nature is structuring principle, the sense of security a pedestrian enjoys is much higher than in an urban space within a built form structured by behavior and movement pattern supported by automobiles.

Mohammedan city current growth is through a form of development which is a characteristic of the latter case. In the contemporary urban development where dimensions of privacy, demands of new lifestyle and perceptions of security eve changed urban form, the traditional urban form may not be possible to be recreated as it is, but the principles of the same can be incorporated within to create urban spaces which may not render a sense of fear in the users. 11 Reference Books Phaedra,Shills, Khan, Camera and Errand, Shills.

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