Kirsty Watt

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How can physical space support social interaction? How can this be integrated within modern cities in order for them to evolve into safe and inviting community spaces? There are a series of gap sites and backlands within Perth, providing a real opportunity for these secondary spaces to be utilised in a way that provides a community infrastructure, whilst enhancing the existing spatial quality. Some of these backlands contain a lot of vacant and underused buildings, which can be used or replaced to encourage the “eyes on the street” (Jane Jacobs) to create more safe and inclusive environments. The concept of community is evolving, and so must the spaces for social interaction. Historically, communities would have related directly to faith and religion, involving a large majority of the population. Religious communities are less popular within a contemporary Atheist and Agnostic Western society, and there has been a perceived erosion of the historic concept of a community and its accessibility within society. I will be analysing and cataloguing the existing and historic networks within Perth - of faiths, societies, clubs, classes, etc - and by understanding the intertwined “semi-latice” (Alexander) of networks, will begin to form an opinion on what initiates a modern community infrastructure. The subsequent intervention proposal will compliment the utilisation of existing spaces to form a contemporary community within the urban block.

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How can physical space support social interaction? How can this be integrated within modern cities in order for them to evolve into safe and inviting community spaces?

Gap-sites and ‘backland’ spaces present opportunities to create a community infrastructure while enhancing existing spatial qualities. Vacant and underused buildings can be re-inhabited, encouraging “eyes on the street,” (Jacobs) and changing how the spaces between them are used and perceived.

The concept of community is evolving as the historic communities, orientated around faith, have diminished, and a lack of seeking a place to dwell amongst cafe-rich modernity and far-reaching social media has affected the accessibility of communities. By analysing and cataloguing the historic and contemporary networks within Perth - of faiths, societies, clubs, classes - I will identify a societal gap within the “semi-latice.” (Alexander, 1966, Page 2) The proposal will cater to the specific needs of that gap, being provisions for children in care as they leave institutional settings. The proposal will be embedded within the physical and social context, as a “house must be a city,” (Van Eyck, 1962) a city must also be communal physical space.

George Inn Lane, as a gap within Perth’s social networks, is a linear backland site , connecting to Mill Street through a series of pends and vennels. Although currently unloved and used for parking and services, there is an opportunity within the courtyards to encourage social interaction and positive dwelling, by analysing its historic use and re-integrating life within it.

This body of work illustrates the proposed intervention, across the urban block, to encourage independence and a sense of community for residents.

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