Hide/Show Apps

Some implications of social change for housing design

Our discussion has probably raised more questions than it has answered and the design implications emerge only at a very crude, general level. Then again, this should not be surprising if we remind ourselves that our focus in on sources of uncertainty in planning for a population undergoing rapid social change. Ultimately, the resilience or transitoriness of current use patterns seems to depend on the types of determinants underlying them. A crude guide to the nature of these determinants can be found in the amount of choice or discretion the individual has in reaching a spatial decision. It can be assumed that the greater the individual's discretion, the more his choices will reflect deeper cultural tendencies rather than mechanical adjustments to current constraints. According to that assumption, the adjustments to no indoor running water have a different order of determination then the allocation of the guest-room function to a room which could just as easily serve another purpose. This is an obviously simplifying assumption since any spatial usage may depend upon factors at more than one level of determination, must decisions being the outcome of compromises between constraints and cultural ideals, which are themselves in a state of flux. Furthermore, the poorer the environment the harder it gets to draw the line since the lack of material resources and sheer shortage of space restrict the amount of choice or alternatives greatly. The search for universals and dependable user attributes within this context must therefore be approached warily. After acknowledging the shortcomings of architectural determinism planners have turned to social scientists for guidance in the realm of user attributes and needs. While this change has had a welcome corrective infulence, it has created a new danger, namely the reification of user attributes and their treatment as sui generis, irreducible properties. The correct identification of these properties and their translation into design solutions is often considered as the ultimate goal, all shortcomings following these attempts being traced to faulty or incomplete indentification. The limitations of this approach are nowhere more apparent than in developing countries where the need to identify directions of change far outweighs that of the synchronic analysis of user attributes. If our discussion has been able to draw sufficient attention to this neglected aspect of planning, it will have served its purpose.