Scholarly article on topic 'Diversity for Better Quality of Community Life: Evaluations in Famagusta Neighbourhoods'

Diversity for Better Quality of Community Life: Evaluations in Famagusta Neighbourhoods Academic research paper on "Social and economic geography"

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Abstract of research paper on Social and economic geography, author of scientific article — Sanaz Saeidi, Derya Oktay

Abstract Physical qualities that create diversity in uses and users are the basis of well-functioning of the neighbourhood environment. However, since the Modernist period, there have been obvious shortcomings in planners’ contribution to the concept of diversity within neighbourhood structure and spatial pattern in many cases. This study, therefore, first investigates the issue of “diversity” within neighbourhood environments and highlights its significance in achieving a successful neighbourhood; then, it will build up a model for analysis of diversity and will analyze four neighbourhoods of Famagusta based on a proposed model in order to make recommendations towards better quality of community life in neighbourhoods.

Academic research paper on topic "Diversity for Better Quality of Community Life: Evaluations in Famagusta Neighbourhoods"

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Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences 35 (2012) 495 - 504

AicE-Bs 2011 Famagusta

Asia Pacific International Conference on Environment-Behaviour Studies, Salamis Bay Conti Resort Hotel, Famagusta, North Cyprus, 7-9 December 2011

Diversity for Better Quality of Community Life: Evaluations in Famagusta Neighbourhoods

Sanaz Saeidi and Derya Oktay *

Eastern Mediterranean University, Department of Architecture, Famagusta, North Cyprus, via Mersin 10, Turkey

Abstract

Physical qualities that create diversity in uses and users are the basis of well-functioning of the neighbourhood environment. However, since the Modernist period, there have been obvious shortcomings in planners' contribution to the concept of diversity within neighbourhood structure and spatial pattern in many cases. This study, therefore, first investigates the issue of "diversity" within neighbourhood environments and highlights its significance in achieving a successful neighbourhood; then, it will build up a model for analysis of diversity and will analyze four neighbourhoods of Famagusta based on a proposed model in order to make recommendations towards better quality of community life in neighbourhoods.

© 2012 Published by Elsevier B.V. Selection and/or peer-review under responsibility of Centre for Environment-Behaviour Studies( cE- Bs), Faculty of Architecture,Planning & S urveying, Universiti Teknologi MARA, Malaysia

Keywords: Neighbourhood; diversity; quality of community life; Famagusta neighbourhoods.

1. Introduction

In the last few decades, cities have experienced dramatic changes due to the pressure by huge concentration of population, dominance of vehicular movement and inappropriate urban planning approaches. These are undesirable side effects of Modernisation that have transformed the shape of cities

* Corresponding authors. Tel.: 0090-542-877-9103; fax: 0090-392-630-236. E-mail address: sanaz.saeedi@yahoo.com; derya.oktay@emu.edu.tr.

1877-0428 © 2012 Published by Elsevier B.V. Selection and/or peer-review under responsibility of Centre for Environment-Behaviour Studies(cE-Bs),

Faculty of Architecture, Planning & Surveying, Universiti Teknologi MARA, Malaysia

doi:10.1016/j.sbspro.2012.02.115

in a way that their urban blocks have been amalgamated into larger units and diversity within them has been reduced significantly; hence, they became specialized zones of single use with high dependency on the car (Bentley, 1985). Specifically, neighbourhood environments have been fallen into considerable decline as experiential variety among them is decreased. Jacobs (1961), in her seminal book The Death and Life of Great American Cities, and Bentley et al (1985), in their highly influential book Responsive Environments, highlight that diversity is one of the key qualities in urban environments. That is to say, in order to ensure variety of experiences, it is essential to have a rich mixture of functions and activities that could benefit different people from all walks of life cut across age groups. In other words, if development is not diverse in the mentioned ways, the result might be homogeneous built forms, monotonous urban landscapes or segregated social communities. This would result in a condition that not only causes physical, functional and spatial disorder, but also creates social, psychological and environmental problems (Wheeler, 2004).

The findings of a recent study on the city of Famagusta - conducted by the second author in 2010 -based on neighbourhoods' satisfaction have determined the subjective measures of quality of life within the city's neighbourhood environments. Thus, in pursuit of exploring the possible impact of "diversity" on quality of life, this study first seeks to outline a methodology for assessing this concept through the objective measures, which offer a variety of experiences within neighbourhoods. Then, in the longer run, it aims to examine how those measures can enhance the social transactions among the neighbourhood and contribute to the quality of community life.

2. Literature Review

2.1. The concept of neighbourhood

Pacione (2005, p. 672) defines neighbourhood as "an urban district in a strict sense defined as one in which there is an identifiable subculture to which the majority of residents conform". Furthermore, Schuck et al. (2006) highlight that a neighbourhood is a spatially defined specific geographic area and a functionally defined set of social networks. In this context, they are assumed to be the spatial units in which face-to-face social interactions occur; the personal settings and situations where residents seek to realize common values, socialize, and maintain effective social control. The original concept of neighbourhood goes back to Ebenezer Howard and Raymond Unwin early in the twentieth century; from the Garden city movement for the idea of internal structuring of the towns around school catchments with residential enclaves giving access to the segregated pedestrian network leading to schools, shops and playgrounds without risk from traffic (Barton, 2000).

According to Farr (2008) "it is necessary to reassert the definition of the term neighbourhood; neighbourhood cannot be referred to the disconnected and single use developments which represent sprawl, such as stand-alone apartment complexes, subdivision tracts, office parks, or shopping centres". Besides, LEED for Neighbourhood Developments (LEED-ND) Rating System points some features of an ideal neighbourhood as follow: having a legible centre and edge; being limited in size - typically five minutes average walk from centre to edge; mixing land uses, allowing basic daily needs within the neighbourhood; accommodating a variety of household types; having an integrated network of walkable streets, public spaces and civic buildings.

2.2. Diversity in Neighbourhoods

One of the most persistent critiques in modernist urban developments which runs through urban design, thinking over the last decades from Jacobs (1961) to Krier (1984), centres around the inadequate variety of experiences that the contemporary cities offer to its users. The major difficulty in achieving this

concept in practical applications is the need for the variety of uses and activities offered by urban places which itself requires the variety of building types and other built up forms. Thus, variety of uses is considered the most significant level of diversity to assure a rich variety of users and experiences. Then, these together create a rich diversity in physical, spatial and functional environment embracing a high degree of visual variety. Particularly, Jane Jacobs (1961) identifies four preconditions in urban environments that create diversity; dense concentration of people and activities; mix of primary uses; short and pedestrian-friendly blocks and streetscapes; mix of building types in age and condition. The neighbourhood unit then must be compact, pedestrian-friendly, and mixed-use by reason that when the fundamental uses and functions are being clustered together, people will comfortably get the opportunity to walk for finding their needs within the neighbourhood (LEED-ND; Farr, 2008). Such conditions provide inhabitants with the chance for making effective neighbourhood transactions and having pleasant social life, which altogether enhance the quality of community life.

On balance, an ideal neighbourhood that meets all users' requirements is more likely to be in a format that is widely diverse in terms of form, use and user. In fact, a balanced mix of uses and facilities in a prosperous form of development which integrates with natural environment, would be able to hold various groups of residents together; so, diverse users in age, gender, education, income level etc. have the chance to fulfil their needs through various uses and facilities available there. Hence, the opportunity to get over a variety of experiences within the neighbourhood is offered that will also bring about rich perceptual meaning to the neighbourhood (Fig.1a). While on the contrary, lack of diversity in specialized zones of single use (Fig.1b), makes them unable to come through the variety of experiences, therefore, the conception of meaning that has its roots in experiential variety and is highly dependent on the variety of forms, uses and users within such environments remains quite missing (Bentley, 1985).

Fig. 1. (a) Variety and its main components; (b) Specialized zones of single use. (After Bentley et al. 1985) 2.2.1. Diversity of forms

Built Environment: Diversity in built up environments intends to establish a perfect physical setting for a sociable, well-functioning neighbourhood (Talen, 2002). In this regard, aspects such as a form of development, existence of legible centre and legible edge (boundaries), density, size and shape of urban blocks, formation of street networks, circulation facilities for vehicles, pedestrians, requirements of less-

able and disabled users need to be investigated. In addition, a neighbourhood with a wide range of housing types and sizes can support a diverse population among neighbourhood.

Natural Environment: Diversity in natural environments within neighbourhoods is an important determinant in shaping the urban form. It contains hilly sites, waterfronts, natural parks, green open spaces, trees in streets and greenery in private and semi-private spaces. Presences of green public outdoor spaces or waterfronts for instance do not only provide people with a place to engage with a range of recreational activities, but also offer them to escape from routines of daily life, make them happier, healthier, and more relaxed, and ultimately improve the quality of their life (Duany, 2000).

2.2.2. Diversity of Uses

In this respect, Murrain's definition (1993) of good mixed-use stating "a finely grained mix of primary land uses, namely a variety of dwellings and workplaces with housing predominant, closely integrated with all other support services, within convenient distance of the majority of the homes", can make quite useful contribution to the debate. The diverse uses of blended neighbourhoods tend to associate with each other and reinforce the sense of neighbourhood character, covering a mixed range of functions and activities such as housing types, educational facilities, retail, entertainment, cultural institutions, playgrounds, etc. within a walkable distance to a set of residential units. Hence, diversity of uses or functional diversity is by no means essential to promote community liveability, transportation efficiency, and walkability.

2.2.3. Diversity of Users

The possibility of enhancing social life through diverse users for making an ideal neighbourhood has generated wide interest among urbanists and sociologists. In order to encourage diversity of users within a neighbourhood, LEED-ND Rating System proposes the inclusion of a sufficient variety of housing sizes and types. The diverse range of housing can offer the chance to various types of inhabitants - extended families, seniors (elderly), couples, and young singles - to live in the same neighbourhood. It can also provide housing for those who work nearby that include young professionals to workforce, teachers, emergency responders and service workers. This mixture, therefore, reinforces neighbourhood's stability by allowing various types of inhabitants to stay in a same community throughout different stages of their lives. Above all, when neighbourhoods hold a variety of ages and incomes, they are more resistant to cycles of decline, abandonment and unhealthy concentrations of poverty.

3. Methodology

3.1. The case: Four neighbourhoods in Famagusta with varying qualities

The cases of this study are four apparently different neighbourhoods within the city of Famagusta, the second largest city in Northern Cyprus. These include Surici (The Walled City), the historic core of the city with remarkable remains of architectural, historical and cultural heritage; Baykal and Karakol, rapidly and consecutively developed residential settlements outside the historic core; and Tuzla, the suburban district of the city which is developed haphazardly at the periphery of Famagusta. The location of these neighbourhood environments is shown in Figure 2.

Fig.2. Map of Selected Neighbourhoods in the City of Famagusta. Source: Drawn by authors through earth.google.com. (based on Famagusta Area Study, in Oktay 2010).

3.2. Developing the model for analysis of diversity

In line with the carried literature review on the concept and dimensions of diversity in neighbourhoods, two major methods for collecting data on the aforementioned case studies were adopted. The first method was primarily on the basis of on-site analysis on the study areas while the second approach involved with reviewing the previously carried researches about Famagusta urban settlements. Thus, a set of objective variables within the neighbourhoods were determined through the mentioned methods. Consequently, in order to outline a methodology for assessing 'Diversity' in neighbourhoods, the achieved variables were grouped together under the headings of diversity of forms, diversity of uses and diversity of users; afterwards, the following model was developed and applied to the cases of this study accordingly (Table. 1). The results of evaluating diversity of forms and uses were predominantly achieved by means of on-site analysis - observation, photographs, maps and sketches; then, they were correlated to the users' profile information gained from the former studies specifically 'Famagusta Area Study' along with TRNC 2006 Population and Dwelling Census.

Table 1. The Model of Analysis of Diversity in Neighbourhoods

LEGEND

HH Good/Available jm^ Fair/Partially Available n Poor/Not Available

4. Findings of Analysis

4.1. Form characteristics

Surici (The Walled City) reveals a great experiential variety owing to the presence of layers created by monumental buildings and remains of different cultures (Gothic, Ottoman and Modern architecture), single and two-story courtyard houses lined along the narrow streets, shops, cafes/restaurants and warehouses. The traditional urban texture is characterized by fair density at the two-dimensional framework (compactness), small and permeable urban blocks, well-scaled narrow streets and culs-de-sac, and organic, irregular urban spaces. However, within the traditional urban form, the circulation system does not accommodate proper vehicular paths, bike lanes, disabled access and pedestrian sidewalks. The materials reveal a rich diversity as cut-stone dominates in historic buildings while mud-brick and stone are used in most of the houses. In addition, reinforced concrete is being used in recent applications although it is questionable in terms of harmony with older buildings.

Baykal is clearly bounded by two major streets and reveals an established form of development with relatively higher density. However, its rapid development has caused some weaknesses in terms of lack of a legible centre as well as careful attention towards the physical, functional and visual characteristics of the buildings and public outdoor spaces. Although, the predominant built forms of this neighbourhood include apartment blocks, one can still feel diversity in this neighbourhood.

In Karakol, rapid and unplanned growth like other newly developed settlements of the city has inevitably led to a serious neglect to the quality of outdoor environment. The area does not have any clear boundary and a legible centre although it accommodates the major commercial strip of the city (Salamis Road). The district lacks an identifiable character and does not reveal positive transition and interaction between indoor and outdoor spaces either (Oktay 2001). Moreover, whilst the district is neighbouring the sea and there are green elements and old trees in some places, no considerable connection exists between users and natural environment.

Tuzla, the sprawled peri-urban district of the city, has posed a serious challenge on the quality of community life. It lacks clear boundary, appropriate density and connection to the surrounding environments. The spaces between and around buildings along with the streets are merely used for vehicular traffic and there is no spatial definition for communal use of the outdoor spaces. The villas and apartment buildings which are all built with reinforced concrete are almost painted in monotonous colours and lack a well defined semi-private outdoor spaces and green elements. Therefore, from this point of view, it is even questionable whether the area could be considered a neighbourhood.

4.2. Use characteristics

In Surici (The Walled City), existence of functions such as men's coffeehouses, wells and fountains in outdoor environments facilitated social cohesion among the neighbours in the older times (Oktay 2001). Today, except little socialization among the neighbours in some streets, the district is far from possessing a rich functional diversity, especially in terms of the recreational activities and facilities for children and youth, community facilities, and green and shaded public spaces. In fact, the neighbourhood is almost isolated from the rest of the city and looks quite "dead", especially during the nights.

In Baykal, variety of housing forms - apartments and detached houses - along with a range of uses and activities clustered together has facilitated the way for encouraging the variety of users and experiential variety as a result, although compatibility of uses is somewhat questionable and well-designed outdoor public facilities are quite missing.

In Karakol, diversity of uses and activities within this neighbourhood has been spread along the major commercial strip in a random fashion. However, despite the availability of five minutes distance to most

of the daily needs within the neighbourhood, no effective communal use of outdoor spaces can be found among the neighbourhood, due to the inconvenience of the streets and sidewalks and lack of comfort and safety for bikes. Another significant point is the existence of unfinished buildings and vacant lands and their negative functional, environmental and visual defects in the quality of outdoor environment.

Absence of experiential variety in peri-urban Tuzla, apart from lack of diversity of forms is specifically referred to its pure single use character. The neighbourhood clearly lacks functional variety, i.e. primary school, retail and grocery stores, public and semi-public open spaces, recreational facilities, etc. within a reasonable distance in as much as it has caused a high dependency on the car even for daily needs. Moreover, similar to Karakol, the efficient use of waterfronts - sea and river - and green fields have been completely ignored. Therefore, no opportunities for outdoor life and social transactions are available for the residents.

4.3. User characteristics.

Surici (The Walled City) is predominantly inhabited by local people, born in Cyprus. The lowest educational and income level is recorded in this neighbourhood and more than half of the residents are over 60. The existing functions in the area has failed to attract the users from other districts of the city and students from the university, rather has recently led to a considerable decline in population (TRNC 2006 Population and Dwelling Census; Oktay, 2010).

Baykal accommodates a fair mixture of gender, age, income level, educational attainment and family type owing to the variety of forms in built and natural environment as well as essential uses and activities in a short distance within the neighbourhood (TRNC 2006 Population and Dwelling Census).

In Karakol, nearly half of the residents are non-local residents and a good mixture of users from different social and income level with higher education or graduate degrees is available there; since the university is in proximity to this neighbourhood, students consist the majority of population in this neighbourhood. They reflect a vibrant quality in outdoor environments although there are maintenance problems and functional incompatibilities (TRNC 2006 Population and Dwelling Census).

The majority of the inhabitants of Tuzla are higher-income people; also, a good mixture of age, gender, family type, educational attainment exists in the neighbourhood. However, since the neighbourhood is a purely monofunctional district, these characteristics are not reflected in general image of the area. Besides, the sprawled form of development has greatly discouraged the communal life of the inhabitants (TRNC 2006 Population and Dwelling Census).

5. Conclusion

This study explored the conception of diversity within neighbourhoods and developed a model for analysing this concept through its objective variables contributing to experiential variety and community life. Findings of the analysis indicate a general lack of diversity of forms in the newly developed neighbourhoods of Famagusta (Baykal, Karakol and Tuzla), and an obvious lack of diversity of uses and users in the historic core (Surici) also in the suburbs of the city (Tuzla); then, concerning the perceived shortcomings, necessitate certain strategies towards a better community life among these neighbourhoods. The studied neighbourhoods of Famagusta have shown an apparent increase in dependency on the car; this condition greatly discourages walking and cycling within the neighbourhood while the opportunity for a rich and effective community life is being lost. On that account, the following could be recommended to minimize this weakness therein: the purpose of planning policies and urban design solutions must try to reduce the need for vehicular movement; and create new developments, permeable and accessible to the existing neighbourhoods (Oktay, 2002). In other words, the transport connections

have to be improved in a way that promotes efficiency, remains environmentally sensitive, and prioritises the needs of pedestrians, cyclists, less-able and disabled people and public transport users. Meanwhile, public spaces should be paid great attention not only in central districts, but also, in the urban edges and newly developed settlements, where the outdoor spaces are becoming more important as densities increase (Oktay, 2002). Additionally, the neighbourhoods must be planned to accommodate a diverse range of uses and activities in a fine grained mixture and spaces between buildings should be utilized for human needs. In particular, taking advantage of the existing dynamics of Surici (The Walled City), there are various opportunities to adjust new functions to satisfy younger generations' requirements. They help the neighbourhood to attract other types of users specially university students and in an ultimate manner, ensure more effective social transactions and meaningful experiences among neighbourhood while preventing monotony of everyday life.

However, the authors believe that whether diversity in a neighbourhood has an impact on residents' quality of life and whether it is a determinant of their neighbourhoods' satisfaction requires a subjective evaluation of the neighbourhoods by the users themselves along with these assessments with objective measures. Therefore, it is their intention in future studies to compare the findings of Analysis of Diversity for a Better Community Life with the findings of Famagusta Area Study within the same neighbourhoods.

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