Published online by Cambridge University Press: 08 October 2022
Not only did [Bacon] and the people he directed not know how to make an interesting or humane street, but they didn't even notice such things and didn’t care.
Robert Kanigel, Eyes on the Street, 2016
Urban design has often been depicted by urban scholars as the antithesis of care as characterized in Chapter 1. Though urban forms and places are hugely varied, they have often been depicted as poorly attuned to the needs and capabilities of inhabitants. Such criticism can be detected, for example, in literature linking urban form to health outcomes, such as the extensive research exploring the relationship between urban sprawl and socio-medical conditions such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease (see, for example, Frumkin, 2002). It can be found in studies of the atmospheric qualities of urban form such as noise from streets, poor air quality and light pollution that have been connected to issues of physical health but also identified as stressors affecting mental health and wellbeing (see, for example, Tuan, 1974; Park and Evans, 2016). It can be found in the growing literature connecting urban design with the availability of such vital resources as water, including research on the impacts of public space design on the depletion or replenishment of the groundwater aquifers that healthy and resilient ecosystems depend on (for example, Lerner, 1990; Pickett et al, 2013). It can also be seen in critical assessments of the generic nature of much urban form and building leading to a sense of placelessness and social exclusions of diverse kinds. Generic design has often been seen to reflect universalizing conceptions and/or imaginary norms of human behaviour, anatomy and ability, and as ‘disabling’ (Hall and Imrie, 1999) to those who fail to adhere to them, who may include people with specific health conditions, mobility issues, learning difficulties or sensory impairments (see, for example, Burton and Mitchell, 2006).
Along with neglecting needs, urban designs have often been shown to play a divisive role with regard to human relationships, including relations of care. Through such strategies as zoning and the segregation of land uses and different residential areas, for example, they have been seen to reinforce difference between different ethnic, age- based and cultural groups rather than foster an ethic of care (see, for example, Frug, 1999; Amin, 2010).
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