Livability of high-rise housing: international experiences and implications on China

Li, C., Wang, Y. and Sun, L. (2019) Livability of high-rise housing: international experiences and implications on China. Journal of Human Settlements in West China, 34(2), pp. 43-57. (doi: 10.13791/j.cnki.hsfwest.20190207)

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After more than 30 years’ rapid urbanization, urban housing style has changed from simple and traditional single or two-story courtyard buildings to high-rise and high-density housing estates. However, there is still a lack of in-depth studies on the consequences of long time high-rise life. This paper aims to contribute to the debate about the livability of high-rise residential environment. It analyzes the logic of high-rise housing’s origin, development, decline and recent revival. The evolution of high-rise housing showed that high residential buildings have been a practical housing solution to special circumstances mainly for the purpose of security and economy. The modern high-rise housing estate began to be developed as a modern housing form based on rationalism and functionalism between the two world wars. After the Second World War, the massive high-rise housing had been built in order to satisfy the huge housing demands in a utopian way. Only twenty year later, high-rise housing was stigmatized and became a problematic housing form rejected by residents due to the emergence of a large number of environmental, social and economic issues. With the rise of sustainable development in 1990s, high-rise housing reaccepted as a sustainable housing solution in high-density urban area, although the controversy on its livability continues. Through literature review, the paper summarized the negative and positive impact of high-rise housing on the residents. Some studies indicated that high-rise housing cause many unpleasant outcomes. Some of them suggested that high-rise housing could result in social problems, such as the decline of social security, the destruction of community and neighborhoods. Other scholars concluded that high-rise housing could lead to such physical and psychological problems as sense of fear, stress, behavior problems, suicide, poor social relations, reduction of helpfulness, and hindering children’s development. On the other hand, from the viewpoint of residents, high-rise living is not without its attractiveness. Some studies have found that more open space between high-rise blocks can help form a space transition from public, semi-public, semi-private to private, which can give more privacy and space to residents, and can facilitate casual and social contacts among residents. Other researchers have discussed that high-rise living could give the residents spectacular view and quietness. Moreover, studies found that some elements, called moderators, are independent of the high-rise residential environment per se and may moderate the residents’ experiences of high-rise living. Based on the findings, two different strategies have been proposed in the different contexts: a) in the cities of Europe, America and Australia where high-rise housing was one option among the diversified housing types, high-rise housing estates were usually purpose-built in attractive locations for special social groups such as students, fashion white-collar workers or wealthy elderly, who accepted the high-rise life; b) in the Asian high-density cities including Hong Kong and Singapore where high-rise housing was the only option for the majority of families, high-rise housing estates were comprehensively planned, designed, constructed, managed and maintained in order to provide the livable residential environment that would satisfy the various needs of all kinds of families, support high-quality living, and continue to be improved through life cycle. The two development strategies were based on the residents’ perception of the livable high-rise residential environment in the respective macro-context. The former provided the livable high-rise housing for the special types of households who accepted or preferred to high-rise living, and met their living demands; the later carefully planned and constructed the livable high-rise housing for the various households according to their diversified housing needs. Both of the two development patterns were established on the practical experiences and findings of many empirical studies on the livability of high-rise housing. The late part of the paper reflects on the international experience’s implications on China’s housing development practice from the perspectives of research, practice and housing management. While high-rise housing in China is still a necessity development approach due to the country’s high people-land ratio and demand for urban housing, careful researches on its livability are urgently required.

Item Type:Articles
Keywords:New-type urbanization, high-rise housing, residential environment, livability.
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Wang, Professor Ya Ping
Authors: Li, C., Wang, Y., and Sun, L.
Subjects:G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > G Geography (General)
H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
College/School:College of Social Sciences > School of Social and Political Sciences > Urban Studies
Research Group:Urban Studies - China
Journal Name:Journal of Human Settlements in West China
Publisher:Ministry of Education and Chongqing University
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