Spatial configuration, perceived density and social interaction in residential environments: A Causal model A case study of gated communities in Mashhad

Document Type : Research Paper


1 University of Art

2 Full professor in Architecture at the University of Shahid Beheshti


Recently in many countries, there is wide acceptance of urban containment and concept of compact city to achieve sustainability. In fact density in residential environments, is used for design guidance to the aim of achieving to compactness. In terms of overall concept, density indicates on compactness of dwelling units and on the level of population. Therefore life condition of residents is in close contact with density. The experience and perception of density by people could be different at different densities and is not adequately expressed by either of density measures. The notion of perceived density is based on the fact that any environment offers cues that enable people to judge an environment’s nature, the potential for action that an environment offers, and the behavior appropriate for that environment. This paper considers the concept of density as one of the factors influencing the quality of human-environment interaction.
Social interaction and community spirit are considered essential for the sustainability of the community and social cohesion. There are contradictory claims about the relationship between high density and social interaction. Some research seems to suggest that high density promotes social interaction, other research indicates that overcrowding may have negative implications for social interaction. Some argue that higher density areas are considered more favorable to community life and social interaction within cities of developing countries than in cities of developed countries. Therefore the relationship of social interaction and density is not understood yet in the context of cities of developing countries.
This paper reports findings from recent research examining the relationship between urban design and layout and aspects of social and communal life in gated communities. The purpose of this study was to investigate the effect of spatial configuration on social interaction through the mediating role of perceived density. To address this, three neighborhoods of same net residential and population density with same socioeconomic status of residents and different layouts and spatial configurations were selected for detailed investigation. Data on social interactions, social activities and perceptions of the built and social environment of the neighborhoods were collected through questionnaire surveys. For this reason 300 residents who were chosen randomly completed 4 point likert scale questionnaire. Housing layout and spatial configurations were analyzed using 3D visibility analysis methods and spatial openness index (SOI index).
Data analysis was done by applying SPSS-19 and Amos-23 software. The questionnaire which has been specifically prepared to draw people’s perception of density and social interactions had reliability. The alpha coefficient was satisfactory and confirmatory factor analysis is applied for assessment of construct validity of latent constructs. The results of path analysis showed that the effects of perceived density on social interaction, is significant (P<0.001) and there is negative structural relationship between perception of density and social interaction. This indicates that some of the negative social impacts found within high-density housing development might be rectified with better design. The data from path analysis indicated that, factor of perceived density mediating the spatial configuration and social interaction. The results confirmed our conceptual model.


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