Environmental neuroscience is an emerging field devoted to studying the impact of social and physical environments on brain processes and behaviour. From the various opportunities for social interaction to noise levels and access to green spaces, the characteristics of the urban environment have important implications for neural mechanisms and brain functioning, thus influencing our physical state. The field paints a different image of how cities impact our health and well-being, thus providing a new, scientific layer of understanding that could help architects, urban planners, and decision-makers create more equitable urban environments.
The COVID-19 pandemic has seen inequalities laid bare, especially when it pertains to the unequal allotment of architectural resources to people. The start of the pandemic saw Europeans who could afford it, for example, leaving the urban metropolises they lived in and going away to their second homes in the countryside. We’ve also seen how poorer people in places like New York, for example, do not have adequate access to green spaces – a critical part of human well-being. Within this conversation is also the issue of social housing - known by multiple names around the world - and how the social housing that gets designed in the present and in the future should respond to ever-changing global needs.
A quick glance today at the cities of the African continent reveals a rich diversity of urban settlements, ranging in type from rural enclaves to sprawling metropolises. That quick glance also reveals a larger picture of cities that are continuously adapting and evolving as we enter the decade of the 2020s – yet this evolution in many places is taking place at the expense of those who are less fortunate. This is not happening in a vacuum, as the reason why a lot of African cities look as they do today is a result of a segregated organization during colonial rule.
Have you ever thought that practically all the cities in the world, since the dawn of humanity, were and continue to be created and designed by men? From urban design to building projects, from public transport to chairs – women have not been part of the process of creating everything around us.
The definition of equity in dictionaries is the quality of giving equal treatment to everyone while still acknowledging the differences between individuals. In this sense, equity means fairness in the way we act toward each person but keeping in mind his or her specific characteristics and needs. From a medical perspective, equity implies that everyone needs care and attention but not necessarily the same. It is also worth mentioning that the terms equity and equality are often used interchangeably but they mean different things, mainly because equality is based on the principle of universal rights, in which all individuals are subject to the same rules, without exception.
When crossing a space, a body carries within it many meanings. The reading that translates into this person-architecture dialogue, and the sensations that arise from it, demonstrate much of the social inequality and violent structures intrinsic to the Western imagination, which privileges the same standard: the white man. Finding a place of rebalancing in which it is possible to create an alternation of power —in race and gender - is a commitment by Erica Malunguinho.
María Cristina Cravino, the head of numerous research projects and publications on informal settlements and the politics of public habitation, draws from her background in anthropology to become one of the most prominent voices in the discussion about rights to the city and modern urban conflicts.
The concept of equity is different from equality; equity means everyone needs support, but not necessarily in the same way. Therefore, the concept of urban equity allows us to preserve the uniqueness of each region of a municipality, protecting diversity and richness without overlooking infrastructure needs, which directly affect the quality of public space and the basic services required for a private residence - it allows us to design and invest in the city fairly, regardless of the region.
“The Citizen Urbanism Claims an Alternative Urban Model From Latin America”: Ocupa Tu Calle’s Lucia Nogales
Lucía Nogales is the general coordinator of Ocupa tu Calle (Occupy your Street) —an UN-Habitat, Avina Foundation-supported initiative promoted by Lima Como Vamos— which focuses on 'citizen urbanism' for inclusive and resilient cities in Latin America.
Following the Second World War, United States veterans and citizens were seeking a fresh start, a rightful place to live out their modern American dream. With a significant housing shortage looming around and fast-growing families, solutions had to be found to provide equitable living means for all. The development of new construction techniques and propagation of easy building materials promised an age of prosperity.
Cities we live in today have been built on principles designed decades ago, with prospects of ensuring that they are habitable by everyone. Throughout history, cities have been catalysts of economic growth, serving as focal points for businesses and migration. However, in the last decade, particularly during the last couple of years, the world has witnessed drastic reconfigurations in the way societies work, live, and commute.
“Equity” is a moving target. We who create architecture want our devotion to have a true forum of objective Equity. But motivations are not outcomes. How we judge design inevitably carries the baggage of “Style” and that makes universal equity in design apprehension impossible.