Inter-disciplinary Research

Our purpose is to explore and understand what makes a village. What are the relationships that it requires? What are the functions it must perform or support? How big should it be? How many people? What ages? Can it exist within a city? What do the edges look like? What urban, social diseases could good village design help alleviate? Can we reduce crime? Can we reduce racism? Can we increase the natural affinities of human compassion?

Understanding the constituents of a community is complex and incomplete. An analysis of community exposes many layers, each of which interacts in unpredictable ways. We try to understand each layer individually and as an interactive collective. In this we consult with the best minds in appropriate disciplines for each layer. Some of the layers include:

Environmental Psychology

The study of the connection between human behaviour and physical and natural surroundings. Architecture describes the construction of built space. Understanding the psychological response to the character of that space, the effects of dimension, size, lighting, colour, interior organization, ventilation, the relationship between public and private space and the relationships between these elements are of particular importance. Think of all the different buildings in your daily experience and how they all elicit different moods, feelings from you this is environmental psychology in action.

One example is the relationship between privacy and civility. While this is hard to measure it is clear from our research that this is an inverse relationship, contrary to urban legend. Increased privacy creates boundaries that require defence, polarizing community relationships and antagonizing neighbours and neighbourhoods.

Health

Developments often encourage a certain type of lifestyle. Urban sprawl creates an increased reliance on the automobile - lessening the need for physical exercise. Higher density and mixed use encourages physical fitness and social interaction by making it possible to replace driving with walking. This can serve to improve the mental health of many people - think of how sitting in traffic all day affects your mood. We can control the design of our urban communities to improve our health and well being, and our research is focused on understanding the factors that contribute to these improvements.

Sociology

In our context sociology helps explain the relationship between individuals and their built and natural surroundings. It examines how architectural forms influence socio-cultural phenomena, helping inform architectural design to create meaningful places to improve the social fabric of community.

Ecology

Urbanization planned poorly degrades our ecosystems at unsustainable levels. A thriving ecosystem and healthy environment both encourages and results from a vibrant social community. Our view is that social development precedes environmental sensitivity, that when people care about each other, they will naturally care about their environment. This insight provides us with design initiatives that follow a social logic and create the possibility of achieving sequenced social goals that may improve the speed of environmental progress.

Economics

Urban villages offer a wide range of economic advantages. Effective mixed use patterns can increase the time available to work and the efficiency of the work done. They can also create powerful adjacencies, which we call complementarities. Placing a large scale server room in a live/work environment creates an opportunity for a wide range of live/work users groups that would not exist without the adjacency. These groups can provide advanced services at lower costs than had been previously possible.

Functioning villages require a healthy economy. Their economic health is dependent on a variety of factors, including the recruitment, motivation and retention talented workers and the provision of jobs to local residents. A well functioning urban village will provide an enhanced context that both contributes to the stability and improves the economic performance of the overall community.