|Title||Compaction, scale and proximity: an investigation into the spatial implications of density for the design of new urban housing|
This thesis investigates the implications of density for the design of new urban housing. An historical study of the notion of density in architectural and planning practice indicates that density ratios as a design mechanism were born out of a desire to control the physical conglomeration of the built mass of the city and to limit the social and hygienic consequences of proximity between people. Density ratios therefore provided a device for addressing the societal distaste for the conditions of proximity, and a professional aversion to the cohesiveness and impermeability of the industrial city. A number of studies have investigated the correlation between density ratios and built form and found density in numeric terms to be a poor descriptor of the qualities of the built environment. However, it is argued that the numerical conception of density as a ratio measure is only one way in which density can be conceptualised and excludes the qualitative aspects of proximity and cohesiveness from the debate.
The thesis presents a critique of the current definition of density as a ratio measure and sets out an alternative, spatial index of density that reintroduces the notions of proximity and cohesiveness to the conceptualisation of what density means for the design of the built environment. It proposes that the continued conception of density as a numeric index limits its veracity for describing the qualities and characteristics of the built environment, and perpetuates the need for assumptions and generalisations about the type of development associated with different density ratios. The index is proposed initially out of an historical analysis and a cross-disciplinary review used to gather together the range of research and understanding, types of measuring, applying, thinking about and writing about the subject of density in architecture and other disciplines. The proposed index is then tested against a series of typical housing schemes in East London. The index is presented finally as a reference for designers and provides a way of thinking about the social and spatial implications of proximity as a starting point for the design of new urban housing.