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Landscape and Urban Planning 78 (2006) 193204

A study of outdoor interactional spaces in high-rise housing


Shu-Chun Lucy Huang
Department of Tourism, Shih-Hsin University, #1, Lane 17, Mu-Cha Rd., Sec. 1, Taipei 116, Taiwan, ROC
Received 24 November 2004; received in revised form 21 July 2005; accepted 22 July 2005
Available online 10 October 2005

Abstract
This study investigates the relationship between the courtyard design of high-rise housing complexes and the residents social
interaction in Taipei, Taiwan. Behavioral observation is applied to three housing projects, reflecting three levels of real estate
value. The observation lasts for 21 days for each project. The total number of observations are 32,476 including 15,532 males
and 16,955 females. Only 5074 people, 15.63% of the total observed residents, have social interaction with others. The findings
reflect the phenomenon of social withdrawal among the residents. In addition, the research findings indicate that both space
types and design elements have an effect on residents social interaction. Among the five space types, significantly more social
interactions are found in circulation spaces, and significantly fewer social interactions are observed in seating and vague spaces.
Regarding the percentages of social interaction, scenic and activity spaces rank first and second, respectively, and are considerably
higher than the other space types. Among the 10 design elements, route and node rank the first and the second, respectively, and
out-weighed the other design elements in terms of the quantity of social interaction. As to the percentages of social interaction,
visual focus, plant, play area, and open space rank first to fourth, and are relatively higher than the other six elements.
2005 Published by Elsevier B.V.
Keywords: High-rise complex; Outdoor space; Social interaction; Space type; Design element

1. Introduction
In Taiwan, the fast economic and population growth
in the past 30 years has resulted in rapid urbanization all
over the country. Due to spatial and financial considerations, housing development has been transformed from
low to medium density and horizontal spread to high
Present address: #1, 7F., Alley 6, Lane 82, Fu-Sing Rd., Taipei
116, Taiwan, ROC. Tel.: +886 2 2236 8225x3381;
fax: +886 2 2236 7745.
E-mail address: huangsch@cc.shu.edu.tw.

0169-2046/$ see front matter 2005 Published by Elsevier B.V.


doi:10.1016/j.landurbplan.2005.07.008

density and vertical stretch (Lee, 1978), especially in


the cities. Up to 1991, 59.9% of the Taiwanese population resided in large metropolitan areas, 14.9% of the
population lived in small metropolitan areas, and only
25.3% of the population resided in non-metropolitan
areas (Tseng, 1994). The average housing price had
inflated 5.38 times and the average capita income only
increased 2.42 times from 1969 to 1988 (Hu, 1989).
Taipei, the capital and largest city in Taiwan, has the
highest living standard and population density in the
country. The average value of priceincome ratio is
4.88 in the country, but the priceincome ratio of

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S.-C.L. Huang / Landscape and Urban Planning 78 (2006) 193204

Taipei has reached up to 8.28 (Tseng, 1994). In other


words, a high percentage of citizens could not afford
to buy averaged priced housing. Taipeis high land
value has caused most people to choose either apartments or high-rise complexes (Chen, 1997). As a result,
most Taipei residents have to live in high density and
crowded environments. The problems of high density
housing have been an issue of concern to many social
psychologists and environmental designers. Such living environments tend to be detrimental to the social
relationship within the community (Zito, 1974; Tognoli, 1987; Keane, 1991). Researchers have found that
the negative effects of residential crowding are partly
due to the collapse in individuals social support systems (Evans et al., 1989; Lepore et al., 1991; Evans and
Lepore, 1993). The findings of Lin (1988) indicate that
Taipei residents of high-rise housing are not interested
in keeping close relationship with their neighbors. In
addition, the residents even think the opportunity for
social contact is not necessary. The above results have
shown that the degree of alienation has become serious
among Taipei residents.
Based on the research results of Wang and Chien
(1999), 51.67% of the residents of high-rise complexes
are not satisfied with their living environments in the
metropolitan areas of Taiwan. Among the nine unsatisfactory factors, the lack of open space is ranked
as the first item. In addition, 50.3% of the residents
believe that outdoor space is as important as indoor
space. In Taiwan, the formation of courtyards for highrise housing is due to a promotional tactic of housing
developers. The government incentive policy issued
in 1984 permitted more floor area to be built for the
creation of open spaces and intensified its popularity among the builders. Since then, high-rise housing
complexes with courtyards have been constructed as
a necessity and are in high demand. However, good
outdoor spaces should not just be visually pleasing,
they should facilitate the social functioning of the
community.

2. Outdoor spaces of high-rise housing


The public spaces of high-rise complexes are essential places that enable residents to establish social
interaction and recognition (Garling and Golledge,
1989). In other words, they can become interactional

spaces (Canter, 1977; Bonnes and Secchiaroli, 1995)


and social arenas (Carr et al., 1992). Residential
outdoor spaces are an extension of living space and
part of the home (Dillman and Dillman, 1987). In
fact, the most valued urban open spaces are not those
that are significant or large, and away from home but
those that are familiar and close (Burgess et al., 1988).
Most people use open spaces that are close to home
(Harrison, 1983). Open spaces in neighborhoods play
an important role in establishing residents sense of
neighboring (Fleming et al., 1985). Basically, outdoor
spaces of high-rise clustered housing are limited to
use by the residents. From this viewpoint, they are
private to the residents. Looking within each housing
project, these spaces can be used by all the residents
and are public to them. Therefore, they are semi-public
spaces and can become activity nodes that provide the
greatest opportunity for access and exposure (Archea,
1977). In addition, they are buffer zones between the
outside world and the housing communities. They
possess the quality of defensible space (Newman,
1973).

3. Space layouts, design elements, and social


activities in outdoor spaces
Three types of activity in outdoor public spaces have
been identified by Gehl (1987). They are necessary
activity, optional activity, and social activity. Accordingly, each type of activity requires certain physical
settings to facilitate their occurrence in the spaces, and
the physical environments needed for different types
of activity are significantly different from each other.
Among them, social activity mainly refers to the interaction that people engage in (Unger and Wandersman,
1985), such as playing with others, greeting others, and
talking to others. Even passive contacts, such as eye
contact and nodding, watching events, and listening
to others, are considered as social activities. The common areas between the houses have been found to be an
important feature that affords social activities in neighborhoods (Cooper Marcus and Sarkissian, 1986). The
existence of activity nodes in public space provides the
greatest opportunity for access and exposure (Archea,
1977), and can increase the residents informal social
interaction (Bechtel, 1977; Francis, 1987). Effective
activity nodes have a central location and easy access,

S.-C.L. Huang / Landscape and Urban Planning 78 (2006) 193204

few visual boundaries to the potential users, and are on


main routes. Therefore, well-planned outdoor spaces
of high-rise complexes can become effective activity
nodes (Bechtel, 1977) that facilitate residents daily
informal contacts. The design of outdoor spaces for
high-rise complexes is important not only for legal and
environmental considerations but also from the perspective of social concern. Successful public spaces
of high-rise housing can provide opportunities for residents to have substantial contact and the sense of
neighboring can then be fostered. Furthermore, good
public spaces can improve the quality of living in urban,
high-density environments.
Besides space layout, some physical features have
been identified as efficient design elements in outdoor
spaces for encouraging social contacts. The provision of common access enables users to have more
opportunities for informal contacts (Fleming et al.,
1985) and stimulates social activities to occur (Howell
et al., 1976). The existence of street furniture also
encourages peoples use of public space including
social interaction (Gehl, 1986; Carr et al., 1992).
Among public space attributes, seating structure is
found to be the most significant in fostering social function (Gehl, 1987). In addition, appropriately arranged
seats assist users conversation and supports informal communication (Campbell and Campbell, 1988).
Open spaces and play areas in the public spaces of
urban communities help the residents social contacts
(Cooper Marcus and Sarkissian, 1986; Coley et al.,
1997). The provision of greenery in residential communities increases the opportunity for social activity and enhances the social bonding among the residents (Coley et al., 1997; DePooter, 1997; Skjaeveland
and Garling, 1997; Kuo et al., 1998; Kweon et al.,
1998). The existence of interesting objects or events,
such as sculptures and performances in public spaces
can elicit interaction among strangers (Whyte, 1980).
Water features with complex and unique forms are
more likely to encourage the observers social interaction (Huang, 1998). The above research findings have
shown that the existence of certain landscape elements
in public outdoor spaces facilitates peoples informal
contact and then supports social interaction. Therefore, the manipulation of the elements in the detail
design of outdoor spaces of high-rise housing becomes
important in the creation of socially favorable living
environments.

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4. Objectives
The purpose of this research is to examine the relationship between the outdoor space design of high-rise
housing complexes and the residents social interaction. The types of outdoor space and the elements of
the space types of high-rise housing complexes are
closely examined to understand their effects on residents social interaction. The findings of the study
should provide insights for environmental designers
regarding the design of outdoor spaces of high density
housing projects to enhance social behavior among the
residents.

5. Methods
In this study, on-site observation was applied to
three high-rise housing projects located in Taipei, Taiwan. The three housing projects represent different
real estate values, and their residents include different
socio-economic groups.
5.1. Study sites
The three projects studied were DaAn Housing,
NienJen Housing, HsinYi Housing. DaAn Housing is
a public housing project. It was funded by the Taiwan government in order to provide affordable housing for the retired military, and completed in 1981.
The project has 1380 dwelling units. The area of
each unit ranges from 79.3 to 112.4 m2 . About half of
the dwelling units was reserved for military retirees
and sold at a heavily subsidized price. The other
half was sold to the general public at a less expensive price than the private housing projects in the
vicinity. The layout of the buildings is in diamondshape form, and there is a centrally located courtyard. The buildings are 7-, 13-, and 18-floors high.
The total area of the project site is 39,100 m2 , and
the total area of the courtyard is 7000 m2 (Fig. 1).
NienJen Housing was funded by the private sector
and was built in 1992. The project has 129 dwelling
units. The total area of the units ranges from 138.8
to 185.1 m2 . The layout of the buildings is u-shaped
and the courtyard is centrally situated. All the buildings are 16-floors. The total area of the project site
is 5917 m2 , and the total area of the courtyard is

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S.-C.L. Huang / Landscape and Urban Planning 78 (2006) 193204

Fig. 1. Four views of the outdoor space of DaAn Housing.

1225 m2 (Fig. 2). HsinYi Housing was privately funded


and finished in 1990. The project has 91 units. The
area of each unit varies from 122.3 to 237.96 m2 .
The layout of the housing project is also u-shaped,

and the courtyard is centrally located. The buildings


are 15-floors. The total area of the project site is
3765 m2 , and the total area of the courtyard is 800 m2
(Fig. 3).

Fig. 2. Four views of the outdoor space of NienJen Housing.

S.-C.L. Huang / Landscape and Urban Planning 78 (2006) 193204

197

Fig. 3. Four views of the outdoor space of HsinYi Housing.

5.2. Procedure
Observational sheets and the site plans of the three
projects were utilized to record the observations at the
three high-rise housing projects. The context of observations included the number of users, users gender,
users age range (elderly, middle-aged, young adult,
and children), movement flow, location of activity, and
type of activity (social or non-social). In this study,
social activities were referred to as the observable
behavioral interaction among the residents, including
nodding, talking, waving, and friendly physical contact. The length of observation was 21 days for each
housing project, including week days and weekends.
In each day, five periods of time, ranging from 7:00
a.m. to 9:00 p.m., were scheduled for observation. Both
quantity of social interaction and frequency of social
interaction were recorded. The quantity of social interaction results mainly from the advantage of the size
of space type/element. As the size of outdoor spaces
increases, more people can be accommodated and the
opportunities for encounter are also increased. The possibility for interaction may hence rise. The percentage
of social interaction is the ratio of the number of interaction to the number of observations. It represents the

relative frequency of social interaction occurring in


the space type/element. Therefore, it reflects the layout characters of certain outdoor spaces in inducing
interaction.
Before the observation started, a thorough inventory of the outdoor spaces of the three housing projects
was conducted. Five spatial categories based on their
major environmental characters were identified. They
were labeled as seating space, scenic space, circulation space, activity space, and vague space.
In seating spaces, seating facilities were the dominant
element. Scenic spaces contained landscape elements
with visual significance. In circulation spaces, pedestrian routes and the recessed areas on routes were
the main elements. Activity spaces had more spacious
open areas and recreational facilities. Vague spaces
contained the areas that were not categorized into the
above four space types. Within the five space types,
10 design elements were nested. Concave seating and
convex seating were included in seating spaces. Visual
focuses (water features and sculptures) and plants
(trees, shrubs, and flowers) belonged to scenic spaces.
Nodes (recesses) and routes (primary paths and secondary paths) were included in circulation spaces. Play
areas (playgrounds) and open areas (plazas and lawn)

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S.-C.L. Huang / Landscape and Urban Planning 78 (2006) 193204

belonged to activity spaces. Undefined areas and border


areas were included in vague spaces.

6. Research results
The results of observation at the three housing
projects are shown in Table 1. The total number of
observed residents was 32,476, including 15,532 male
and 16,955 female and representing 47.84 and 52.16%
of the total observed residents, respectively. Among
them, 9330 people (28.74%) were elderly; 10,413 peo-

ple (32.07%) were middle-aged; 5480 people (16.88%)


were young adults; 7248 people (22.32%) were children. The number of residents who had social interaction was 5074, only 15.63% of the total observed
residents. Among them, 2414 people (47.58%) were
male and 2660 (52.42%) people were female. Looking
at each individual project, at HsinYi Housing, 7732
residents were observed, representing 23.81% of the
total observed residents. The number of residents with
social interaction was 1391, which was 17.99% of the
observed residents at this housing project. At NienJen
Housing, 9587 residents were observed, 29.53% of the

Table 1
The results of observation at three housing projects
Observation

Housing project
HsinYi Housing
(high-priced)

NienJen Housing
(medium- priced)

DaAn Housing
(low-priced)

Total

Total observed residents


% Of total observation

7732
23.81

9587
29.53

15148
46.66

32467
100.0

Male
% Of total observation
% Within project

3863
24.87
49.96

4681
30.14
48.83

6988
44.99
53.87

15532
100.0
47.84

Female
% Of total observation
% Within project

3869
22.85
50.04

4906
28.97
51.17

8160
48.18
53.87

16935
100.0
52.16

Elderly residents
% Of total observation
% Within project

2230
23.91
28.84

2820
30.24
29.41

4276
45.85
28.23

9326
100.0
28.72

Middle-aged residents
% Of total observation
% Within project

1982
19.03
25.63

2598
24.95
27.10

5833
56.02
38.51

10413
100.0
32.07

Young adults
% Of total observation
% Within project

1810
33.03
23.41

2314
42.23
24.14

1356
24.74
8.95

5480
100.0
16.88

Children
% Of total observation
% Within project

1710
23.59
22.12

1855
25.59
19.35

3683
50.82
24.31

7248
100.0
22.33

# Of social interaction
% Of total observation

1391
27.41

1384
27.28

2299
45.31

5074
100.0

Male
% Of total observation
% Within project

707
29.29
50.83

666
27.59
48.12

1041
43.12
45.28

2414
100.0
47.58

Female
% Of total observation
% Within project

684
25.71
49.17

718
26.99
51.88

1258
47.30
54.72

2660
100.0
52.42

% Of social interaction

17.99

14.43

15.18

15.63

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199

Table 2
The results of observation based on space type
Space type

Seating space
Scenic space
Circulation space
Activity space
Vague space

Observation
# Of observed residents
(% of total observation)

# Of social interaction
(rank)

% Of social interaction
(rank)

622 (1.92%)
3512 (10.82%)
24645 (75.91%)
3134 (9.65%)
554 (1.71%)

101 (4)
938 (2)
3231 (1)
730 (3)
74 (5)

16.24 (3)
26.71 (1)
13.11 (5)
23.29 (2)
13.36 (4)

total observed residents. Only 1384 residents, 14.43%


of the observed residents at this housing project, had
social contacts with others. At DaAn Housing, 15,148
residents were observed, 46.66% of the total observed
residents. A total of 2299 residents, 15.18% of the
observed residents at this project, had social contacts
with others.
The results of observation at the five different spaces
are shown in Table 2. Within circulation space, 24,645
people were observed, comprising a dominant percentage (75.91%) of the total observation. The quantity of
social interaction in descending order was circulation
space (3231), scenic space (938), activity space (730),
seating space (101), and vague space (74). The percentage of social interaction in descending order was
scenic space (26.71%), activity space (23.29%), seating
space (16.24%), vague space (13.36%), and circulation
space (13.11%). The findings indicated that the quantity of social interaction was much greater in circulation

space than in the other four spaces. However, the percentage of social interaction was greater for scenic and
activity spaces.
A further examination of the results of observation based on design element is shown in Table 3.
Among the 10 design elements, a prominent percentage (56.31%) of residents were observed on routes. The
quantity of social interaction for the 10 elements in
descending order was route (2,363), node (868), plant
(670), play area (444), open area (286), visual focus
(268), concave seating (91), undefined area (66), convex seating (10), and border area (8). The percentage of
social interaction in descending order was visual focus
(29.84%), plant (25.63%), play area (24.65%), open
area (21.46%), concave seating (16.95%), undefined
area (16.88), node (13.64%), route (12.92%), convex
seating (11.76%), and border area (4.91%). The findings revealed that much more social interaction was
found at route and node than at the other eight design

Table 3
The results of observation based on design element
Design element

Concave seating
Convex seating
Visual focus
Plant
Node
Route
Play area
Open area
Undefined area
Border area

Observations
# Of observed residents
(% of total observation)

# Of social interaction
(rank)

% Of social interaction
(rank)

537 (1.65)
85 (0.26)
898 (2.76)
2614 (8.05
6362 (19.60)
18283 (56.31)
1801 (5.55)
1333 (4.11)
391 (1.20)
163 (0.50)

91 (7)
10 (9)
268 (6)
670 (3)
868 (2)
2363 (1)
444 (4)
286 (5)
66 (8)
8 (10)

16.95 (5)
11.76 (9)
29.84 (1)
25.63 (2)
13.64 (7)
12.92 (8)
24.65 (3)
21.46 (4)
16.88 (6)
4.91 (10)

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Table 4
The differences of the quantity of social interaction within five space types
Space type (I)

Space type (J)

Mean difference (IJ)

Standard deviation

Significance (p-value)

Seating space

Scenic space
Circulation space
Activity space
Vague space

13.286
75.325
15.778
0.159

4.103
4.588
4.588
4.588

0.001**
0.000***
0.001**
0.972

Scenic space

Seating space
Circulation space
Activity space
Vague space

13.286
62.040
2.492
13.127

4.103
4.588
4.588
4.588

0.001**
0.000***
0.587
0.005**

Circulation space

Seating space
Scenic space
Activity space
Vague space

75.325
62.040
59.548
75.167

4.588
4.588
5.025
5.025

0.000***
0.000***
0.000***
0.000***

Activity space

Seating space
Scenic space
Circulation space
Vague space

15.778
2.492
59.548
15.619

4.588
4.588
5.025
5.025

0.001**
0.587
0.000***
0.002**

Vague space

Seating space
Scenic space
Circulation space
Activity space

0.159
13.127
75.167
15.619

4.588
4.588
5.025
5.025

0.972
0.005**
0.000***
0.002**

**
***

p < 0.01.
p < 0.001.

elements. However, the percentages of social interaction were higher for visual focus, plant, play area, and
open area than the rest of the design elements.
Analysis of variance was then used to examine if
any discrepancy existed among the five space types
regarding the quantity of social interaction. The results
indicated a significant difference existed (F = 81.71,
p = 0.000). Post hoc analysis was then used to examine the differences among the five spaces (Table 4). The
findings showed that the quantity of social interaction in
seating space was significantly less than in scenic space
(p = 0.001), circulation space (p = 0.000), and activity
space (p = 0.001). The quantity of social interaction in
scenic space was significantly greater than in seating
space (p = 0.001) and vague space (p = 0.005), and less
than in circulation space (p = 0.000). The quantity of
social interaction in circulation space was significantly
greater than in the other four space types (p = 0.000).
The quantity of social interaction in activity space was
significantly greater than in seating space (p = 0.001)
and vague space (p = 0.002), and less than in circulation space (p = 0.000). The quantity of social interaction

in vague space was significantly less than in scenic


space (p = 0.005), circulation space (p = 0.000), and
activity space (p = 0.002). The findings suggested that
among the five space types, significantly more social
interactions were found in circulation space, and significantly fewer social interactions were observed in
seating space and vague space.
To examine the difference between the design elements of each space type regarding the quantity of
social interaction, t-tests were used. The results indicated that in seating space, significantly more social
interactions were observed at concave seating than
at convex seating (t = 2.260, p = 0.029) (Table 5). In
scenic space, the quantity of social interaction was not
significantly different between visual focus and plant
(t = 1.566, p = 0.122). In circulation space, significantly fewer social interactions were found on nodes
than on routes (t = 5.571, p = 0.000). In activity space,
significantly more social interactions were observed
at play areas than at open areas (t = 3.212, p = 0.002).
In vague space, significantly more social interactions
were observed in undefined areas than in border areas

S.-C.L. Huang / Landscape and Urban Planning 78 (2006) 193204

201

Table 5
t-Tests of difference between the design elements within each space type
Space type

Design element

Seating space

Concave seating
Convex seating

Equal variance assumed


Equal variance not assumed

4.018

0.049

1.616
2.260

Scenic space

Visual focus
Plant

Equal variance assumed


Equal variance not assumed

0.051

0.823

1.566
1.612

0.122
0.114

Circulation space

Node
Route

Equal variance assumed


Equal variance not assumed

0.013

0.911

5.571
5.571

0.000***
0.000***

Activity space

Play area
Open area

Equal variance assumed


Equal variance not assumed

6.460

0.013

3.212
3.212

0.002**
0.002**

Vague space

Undefined area
Border area

Equal variance assumed


Equal variance not assumed

28.253

0.000

6.628
6.628

0.000***
0.000***

*
**
***

Levenes test for equality


of variance

t-Test for equality of


mean

Significance

Significance
0.111
0.029*

p < 0.05.
p < 0.01.
p < 0.001.

(t = 6.628, p = 0.000). In other words, more social interactions were evoked at concave seating, route, play
area, and undefined area than their counterparts within
each space type.

7. Discussion
The findings indicated that there was little difference in the percentages of social interaction for HsinYi
Housing, NienJen Housing, and DaAn Housing. Overall, the average percentage of social interaction is
15.63%. The low percentage reflects the phenomenon
of social withdrawal among the residents of urban highrise housing in Taipei, Taiwan, as reported by Lin
(1988). Among the five space types, scenic and activity
spaces can support more social interaction. In a further
examination of the 10 design elements, visual focus,
plant, play area, and open area can encourage more
social behavior.
Looking at each space type, circulation space
exceeds the rest of the space types regarding the quantity of social interaction. The findings confirm the
notion that the chance for social interaction increases
as the opportunity for physical contact rises (Ebbesen
et al., 1976). However, the percentage of social interaction in circulation space is only 13.11% and ranks the
last among the five spaces. The research results suggest

that weak social ties established through the course of


recurring visual contacts (Granovetter, 1973; Greenbaum, 1982) within circulation space do not promote
social behavior. Although circulation spaces comprise
a great portion of the site, they are not better than the
other space types in enhancing social behavior due to
their transitional character and linear pattern. The finding is supported by the notion of Abu-Ghazzeh (1999)
that it is the layout of space, not the amount of space,
that decides the use of the area. In addition, a higher
percentage of social interaction is observed on nodes
rather than on routes. Compared with routes, nodes
are relatively more spacious, allowing people to stop
temporarily and act without severely interfering movement, and are more suitable for social behavior to take
place.
Among the five spaces, seating space ranks third
in terms of the percentage of social interaction. Based
on the findings, seating spaces are not a great stimulus
in facilitating social interaction. The results seem to be
contradictory to research results in the past (Gehl, 1987;
Carr et al., 1992). It should be noted that in this study
concave seating and convex seating are both included
in seating space as design elements. In a further look
at these two elements, the findings suggest that the
percentage of social interaction is greater at concave
seating than at convex seating. Such results confirm
the importance of seating arrangement as recognized

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S.-C.L. Huang / Landscape and Urban Planning 78 (2006) 193204

by Campbell and Campbell (1988) and Cooper Marcus


et al. (1990). In other words, concave seating reflects
the qualities of socialpetal (Osmond, 1957).
In scenic space, the percentage of social interaction
in scenic space ranks first. Therefore, the importance of
scenic space in encouraging social interaction is found
and supported by the findings of Sherrod (1977) and
Nasar (1994) that attractive environments affect behavior and enhance social interaction.
In activity space, the percentage of social interaction in activity space ranks second. The effectiveness
of activity space in facilitating social interaction is
supported. Among the five spaces, activity spaces are
relatively more spacious and playful. As children generally prefer spending time outdoors (Moore, 1986), the
existence of open areas or recreational equipment in the
outdoor space tend to attract children to play. In addition, the findings show that significantly more social
interactions are observed at play areas than at open
areas. In other words, as the opportunity for children
to play increases, so do the social interactions among
the children and their supervisors. The same occurrence was also found by Cooper Marcus and Sarkissian
(1986).
Among the five spaces, the percentage of social
interaction in vague space ranks fourth indicating the
ineffectiveness of vague space in stimulating social
behavior. The result confirms that Kaplan et al. (1989).
Basically, undefined areas do not have a strong environmental character and normally will not impress their
perceivers. Border areas are excellent for territorial
surveillance, but their peripheral character and spatial
limitations make social interaction difficult. The findings show that the percentage of social interaction in
border areas ranks last among the 10 design elements.
Such a result confirms the belief that the overuse of territorial markers promotes social isolation and results in
the breakdown of social relationship (Unger and Wandersman, 1983).
Based on the findings of the study, some principles are proposed for the design of outdoor interaction spaces for urban high-rise housing. The design
of pedestrian circulation should reflect functional concerns such as accessibility and width, but also consider social possibility. The provision of recesses along
pedestrian routes enables users to stay temporarily on
routes and interact without blocking the movement of
others. In addition, the layout of seating plays a cru-

cial role in affecting users social behavior. Generally,


concave seating allows facial contact and encourages
interaction. Convex seating makes facial contacts difficult and discourages socializing. In designing scenic
spaces, the choice of landscape elements is important.
Plants, water features, and sculptures in the outdoor
spaces add visual interest to harsh urban environments.
They can attract people to stay in the places and stimulate their conversation. In designing activity spaces,
flexibility and playfulness are the major concerns. Spacious open areas such as plazas can accommodate more
users at the same time and facilitate a variety of activities. In addition, playgrounds containing recreational
facilities, especially those attractive to children, are
more likely to make their custodians interact. Finally,
the integration of space types and design elements can
intensify the outcomes in supporting social behavior.
For instance, concave seating areas next to plants, close
to activity spaces, and with water features or art works
within visual distance can provide the users of the seating facility with shade, events, and aesthetic quality,
and greatly help to evoke interaction.
Further research is warranted. Due to the limit of
observation method, the demographic data could not
be obtained in detail. The use of questionnaire surveys or interviews should be able to find out more
about the social behavior among residents with different socio-economic backgrounds. In addition, some
observational results can be further explored, such as
the differences in observation patterns between weekdays and weekends and between different periods of
time of day, and the differences of user groups regarding specific space and certain time of day.
Acknowledgements
The author is grateful to the committee boards of
DaAn Housing, NienJen Housing, and HsinYi Housing
for their permission to conduct this research at their
properties. The author also thanks the reviewers of the
paper for their valuable comments.
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