Master planned communities and the re-formation of cities for health and wellbeing

30 May 2012

Master planned estates are a common feature of modern cities. This paper explores residents’ social practices to reveal connections between spatial and social features, daily routines and health and wellbeing.

Master planned communities (MPCs) are designed to give residents a ‘complete living experience’ including access to educational facilities, shopping centres and parks. Although MPCs aspire to be suburban utopias much research focuses on identifying negative outcomes to reinforce notions that dreams of utopian futures are rarely realised. However, as a dynamic form of city re-formation, MPCs create an opportunity to ‘get it right’ by putting into practice lessons learnt from the past and principles of best practice planning. Selandra Rise is an MPC in Melbourne, Australia that has been designed to maximise the health and wellbeing of residents. Key elements incorporate access to nature, open space for physical activity, diverse housing, access to education, public transport, a local town centre and a focus on generating employment.

This paper presents the details of a study designed to measure the role of built, natural, social and economic environments in the health and wellbeing of residents, taking account of the key design features listed. Using a social practice approach rather than taking an individual behavioural stance, the research focuses on households as a unit of study to reveal the connection between spatial and social features, daily routines and health and wellbeing. The paper presents the methods, outlines findings to date, and reflects on potential policy implications for creating neighbourhoods and cities to improve social and physical health.

Presented at the International Making Cities Livable Conference –20-24 May, 2012, Portland, Oregon USA

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