Boundaries to Socially and Enviromentally Equitable Communal Spaces - Finding Common Ground for a Sustainable Urban Existence in Multicultural Oslo
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During periods of urban renewal, neighborhoods change at a rapid pace. Developers and land owners with resources renovate and build newer and nicer to attract a different market of residents to previously run-down neighborhoods. Through the process, people of varying societal sectors become neighbors, suddenly having (perhaps only) the element of public and communal space in common - despite broad demographic differences. This thesis examines communal space within a disparate, changing residential neighborhood of Oslo as a potential basis for creating sustainable, mutually reinforcing social and environmental coexistences. If sustainability is a goal in today’s cities, as generally defi ned by the United Nations after Agenda 21 as the balance of equities between Social, Ecological, and Economic components, then the question this thesis asks is - how can a neighborhood in change promote sustainability and a harmonious coexistence of its residents in the midst of urban renewal - where economic inequity is inherent? Where is common ground for all residents of a place, and what are the potentials of that ground for promoting a more sustainable urban existence - environmentally and socially if not economically? This study examines many of the equity issues faced by Oslo’s changing and multicultural inner-east neighborhoods of Tøyen and Grønland - immigration, gentrifi cation, fragmentation, discrimination, social ignorance and fear, uneven resources and participation. Such problems apply to many of today’s cities - inequity here has been legislated out of the government but remains buried in the subtle layers which compose and infl uence rental and real estate structures. Within these structures, differences between people - exercised in the built environment and its use - are creating limitations and boundaries to social and environmental equities. The society is as fragmented as the divided yard spaces found in the study site and residents often have no basis for identifying with their diverse neighbors despite proximity and shared infrastructure. Equity and sustainability topics are a matter of values and depend on what people see as important to their personal lives. Such values, however, differ between residents and among stakeholder groups within neighborhoods - the lack of communal values being capable of hindering the potentials for sustainable coexistence. The research project is specifi cally guided by the question: How do value disparities hinder social and environmental equity potentials of communal spaces in a context of inherent economic inequity? From understanding privately owned communal spaces as a part and potential resource of the greater city to deriving local values and motivating factors in its management, the analysis attempts to bridge societal sectors and city agendas. The fi eldwork for this thesis revolved around defi ning the values of stakeholder groups, noting where differences occur, and then analyzing the boundaries being reinforced by found unaligned values. Utilizing theoretical context including topics of Sustainable Cities, Urban Renewal and Gentrifi cation, Multicultural Neighborhoods, and Housing Theory, indicator values of community, identity, diversity, shared space, nature, upkeep and participation were selected. These indicator values serve as a basis for comparison of a selected range of communal yards - what values residents and property owners claim to have, what values are demonstrated by the built environment, and what values are demonstrated by the usage of the built environment. Such values are derived from cases through balancing principles from both architectural determinism and behaviorism thought. The thesis hopes to identify causes of socio-spatial boundaries at work in the study area which can then targeted in future planning measures to encourage more equitable communal spaces despite the common context of economic difference and income inequality.