Over the past 25 years, the number of people living in apartments has increased by 78%. As a result, the way these buildings are being created has evolved. Now, developers and architects are crafting homes configured to encourage a genuine sense of community.
What defines a community? Human interaction. This is why it’s so important for apartments to include a healthy mix of social spaces, with landscaped gardens and parks, so residents can engage with one another and the environment. But, as Emil Kresl notes in his paper The Importance of Social Spaces (featured in The New Planner), there are two types of social spaces — obligatory and voluntary.
"People gravitate towards people. It's human nature to seek human interaction, yet it is also natural to feel like you just need to get away from other people for a while,” Kresl writes. “But what is not fully understood is that, broadly speaking, there are really two kinds of public space, and a healthy and happy community should have a balance of both of them.”
Obligatory social spaces provide people with little to no choice but to interact with one another. These kind of spaces are the mark of a functioning city — it’s a tram or train where you’re in a closed space with other people or a busy café where you must interact with service providers to order your food.
In an apartment development, obligatory social spaces include activated ground level retail and dining precincts, like those found at Melbourne Square (shown below), or Ed.Square’s on-site shopping centre in Sydney. Residents can enjoy the convenience of a supermarket at the doorstep while engaging with neighbours and strangers alike.
If you don’t get a break from being around people all the time, however, you can become exhausted. This is why spaces which ensure you have a choice whether you want to participate socially (on varying levels) while still being out in the open are so important.
Voluntary social space looks like this: a walk through a public park on a quiet afternoon, where you may pass a fellow walker or see people picnicking on the grass but you need not communicate with them.
Sanctuary by Sekisui House in Wentworth Point (shown below) is a great example of how an apartment project can incorporate voluntary social spaces. A series of landscaped courtyards and public open spaces has been incorporated into the project’s design so residents can enjoy a connection to nature while a hiking path connects the estate to the surrounding 47.77 hectares of reserves.
So, while community means sharing your space and interacting with other people, it also means enjoying a moment’s peace in beautiful surroundings. When you live in a house in the suburbs, you might not have convenient access to a healthy mix of both these types of social spaces but you do when you live in any apartment developments like the ones mentioned above.
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