URBAN SEGREGATION AND URBAN FORM : From residential segregation to segregation in public space

Abstract: Urban segregation is considered a major social problem in Sweden and several national anti-segregation initiatives have been launched to decrease social and ethnic segregation but so far only with marginal effects (SOU 2005:29). Urban design and town planning are rarely the focus in national anti-segregation initiatives; the architectural issue has mainly been confined to matters concerning housing policies. This thesis argues that the strong focus on residential segregation in prevailing research on urban segregation is unfortunate and skewed, confusing issues related to urban design.This licentiate thesis explores urban segregation in relation to urban form because physical separation between people or between activities has an obvious direct relationship to how cities are shaped and structured by built form. Urban public space is often neglected in discussions on segregation and this thesis suggests that its role has been underrated. If it can be shown that segregation in public space influences such aspects of life as accessibility to other people and amenities, movement flows, co-presence in public space, and movement patterns, then it can be established that urban public space – as it is structured and shaped by built form – very directly influences people’s everyday lives. The thesis explores how urban segregation can be conceptualized, analysed, and described in a way that increases knowledge and under­standing regarding the role of urban form. Using a configurational morphological approach, this study shifts the focus by bringing attention to spatial relations within the city through public space, i.e., from spatial location to spatial relations. Hence, analysis focuses on distributions of space and through space rather than distributions in space. The result shows that configurational theories, methods, and tools contribute to more nuanced descriptions of spatial relations on both a local and a comprehensive level and analysis has the ability to shed light on essential differences in neighbourhoods and in the city as a whole. Using Södertälje as a case study, this thesis found a pronounced ruptured interface between the global and the local structure that clearly speaks of segregation in public space; this finding suggests that whether the neighbourhoods are residentially segregated or not, public space in most areas already is segregated. Results show that the built environment has a significant influence: urban space can both reinforce and mitigate certain social outcomes. This thesis identifies various negative social consequences of the hierarchical and segregated spatial structure found in Södertälje. Although it is not possible to say that integration processes are hindered by urban form, it is possible to conclude that spatial properties may both create and reproduce segregation patterns.Segregation in public space is found to be a far more urgent issue in the context of urban segregation than earlier recognised, and the result shows that urban form has a distinguishable influence on people’s everyday lives. This understanding opens for the possibility to address urban segregation from an urban design perspective, contributing to a significant discussion of space and society as well as issues related to urban sustainability. The findings of this study widen the possibility for urban design practice to be an important tool within anti-segregation initiatives in the future, a tool that in Sweden is used only to a very limited extent.