Testing the theory of 'planned communities': an exploration of the link between community design and everyday life through a participatory approach

Nadia Bertolino, Sandra Costa Santos

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


This paper examines the architectural theory of 'planned communities' through a cross-disciplinary reading of Basil Spence's Claremont Court Housing Scheme (1959-1962) in Edinburgh. At the turn of the 1960s, Team X's theory of 'planned communities' echoed contemporary thinking in the social sciences about community design, by linking spatial arrangement and social behaviour. In particular, housing schemes' enclosed arrangements (such as the street, the square or the green) were believed to foster a sense of belonging to a community (Smithson and Smithson, 1962). Drawing from the theory of 'planned communities', Claremont Court was designed as an inner-city development structured around two landscaped courtyards in order to foster a sense of community (Campbell et al., 2012). This original examination of the role of its communal spaces in nurturing community structures relates to a broader discourse on the linkages between architectural arrangement and social behaviour in post-war housing developments (Coleman, 1985; Newman, 1972). An initial stage of this work is based on Coleman?s 'design variables' (e.g. type of corridors, position of the entrances, spatial organisation etc.), but its originality relies on a cross-disciplinary methodological approach. The research is qualitative in nature, and draws from various methods, including visual methods, open-ended interviews, and a participatory workshop with residents, in which the participants were asked to sketch their 'mental map' of the scheme, highlighting positive/negative aspect attached to these through simplified symbols. A first analysis structured around Coleman's variables was followed by a second analysis of the data gathered through the participatory workshop. The findings of this examination allowed us to test the original intention of planning a community in the '60s with the current community life in Claremont Court. This work contributes to the still open debate on the idea of 'planned communities' (Moran 2012).
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2017
EventArchitecture, Media, Society and Politics (AMPS) Conference: Cities, Communities and Homes: Is the Urban Future Livable? - University of Derby, Derby, United Kingdom
Duration: 22 Jun 201723 Jun 2017


ConferenceArchitecture, Media, Society and Politics (AMPS) Conference
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


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