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Architectural Character, Social Environment and Sense of Place - New Housing Developments in Rural Villages of Aberdeenshire

Part 1 Dissertation 2007
Graham Edgar
Robert Gordon University | UK
This paper considers the architectural character, social environment
and sense of place in rural villages of Aberdeenshire, in comparison to new housing developments built at their periphery. The paper aims to improve sustainability by informing new design with the qualities which seemingly make housing in old villages successful; rich character, cohesive social environment, durability and economy in construction and appropriate environmental response.

The study was evoked by a personal interest and a concern that the sense of place evident in many old villages is compromised by unsympathetic development with comparatively unsatisfactory quality of place. It is thought that being fit for purpose and desirable over a long period of time has as much to do with perception of place as physical integrity. A literature review investigates architectural character, social environment and sense of place, considering to what extent these components may contribute to improving sustainability of future housing development.

Two case studies are presented, selected to allow a comparison of old and new housing and also between differing housing layouts and Architectural intentions. Dunecht is a linear village where a recent development has intended to mimic the traditional architectural character, but does not accommodate the same social environment. Kincardine O’Neil is a clustered type village where a more ecological approach has been taken in the new development to sympathise with the historic village, with social sustainability a priority in its layout.

The case studies provide background and planning information including interviews with Architects, detailed site investigations with architectural and subjective spatial observations, and insightful resident surveys. The range of information allows the successes from both professional and resident points of view to be compared, and the key components influencing these opinions to be identified. The information is analysed, and the question is posed; how can the character, social environment and sense of place apparent in rural villages of Aberdeenshire inform the sustainable development of new housing?

Graham Edgar

A very successful body of work, well structured and referenced. The student adopts and promotes a holistic approach to housing design including the wider environmental and visual impact of the developments. It deals with local character and sense of place together with concerns of social sustainability with an insightful analysis.

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