Now reading

Safety through Environmental Design | #TheGlobalGrid Cha...

Safety through Environmental Design | #TheGlobalGrid Chat Recap

What impact does environmental design have on safety in our cities was the question addressed in #TheGlobalGrid March Twitter chat. Safety is a core element of a quality urban life. A safe city ensures that all its city residents have full access to public spaces, amenities, and services and fosters their sense of belonging and

by Sarah Essbai March 27, 2018
Head article image

What impact does environmental design have on safety in our cities was the question addressed in #TheGlobalGrid March Twitter chat. Safety is a core element of a quality urban life. A safe city ensures that all its city residents have full access to public spaces, amenities, and services and fosters their sense of belonging and ownership. As a nod to the March annual celebration of International Women's Day, we explored the effectiveness of gender-based design approaches as a means to achieve safety for all.

To answer and debate our five Twitter chat questions, we invited four panelists who brought great insight and diversity of opinions and backgrounds to the conversation:

Keep reading for a summary of the main takeaways from our March Twitter chat.

  1. Quantitative indicators are only one layer of the tools to assess urban safety

Quantitative indicators, such as crime rate and health, are not immune to bias. Relying solely on them to measure safety can reflect a skewed image of reality. People’s perception and other qualitative indicators such as walkability, public transit ridership, how busy public spaces are and who is walking, biking, playing and occupying them are as, if not more critical to completing the narrative. The availability and density of technological solutions can also often mask cultural structures which exclude or threaten the safety of a specific group, namely women, from public spaces.

  1. To be effective, design should be coupled with structural transformations

Design plays an important role in enhancing a city’s functionality and livability. However, design and data-based solutions to improve safety should be accompanied by clear visions and human-centered structural solutions in the areas of urbanism and urbanism education. The introduction of a gender perspective to planning in Sweden had a great impact on urban design by bringing change to the methodologies used to analyze and survey the use of public space.

  1. Diversity in the design and planning profession is critical to achieving a safe city for all

The success of a gender approach in planning and designing for safety in cities depends on including women in the different processes leading to planning and designing public spaces, whether as users or planners and designers.

Women, as well as all other marginalized groups, should be represented and included in the different professional bodies dealing with the design and governance of cities, in addition to community leadership, to ensure that the resulting physical spaces are indeed adapted and safe for everyone. Single perspectives and narratives are detrimental to achieving quality and safety in public spaces.  

  1. Cultural and social values are as important to maintain the cohesion of our cities as physical spaces

Safety might be a precondition for cohesion, but a safe community isn’t always cohesive. Cities are complex ecosystems. Each city is unique. Its dynamics and patterns of life are defined in great part by the interaction and “friction” between its people. Further research and study into human behavior and social constructions are therefore necessary to increase our understanding of the different economic factors, power structures and urban forms at play in a city.

Do you feel safe in your city? What does, or does not, make you feel safe? How does the physical space and design influence your perception of safety? Share your experience and insights with us in the comments section below.

For the full conversation, check our Twitter moment and don’t miss next month’s #TheGlobalGrid Twitter chat on Wednesday, April 18th at 12:00 p.m. PT. We’ll be discussing how green roofs can support city sustainability goals with our co-host Greenroofs and a group of experts. Do you have ideas for topics that you would like to discuss with us in future chats? Let us know. We look forward to your participation!

Become a Patron of The Global Grid
Intern photo

Sarah Essbai is an architect, urban planner and independent researcher based in Zaandam, in The Netherlands. As of September 2017, she is leading the communications and marketing efforts of The Global Grid.

Tuesdays, in your inbox.

Weekly local urbanist news and jobs. 

You have Successfully Subscribed!