Residential Environments and People
Residential environments are designed and restructured by people for people. The relationship between residential environments and people is mutual. Residential environments afford functions for and communicate meanings to people through the ways in which they are shaped, and human beings design functions and attach meanings to residential environments through their everyday life and activities. This Working Group focuses on the relationship between people and residential environments from the perspective of the individual. People’ attitudes, perceptions, preferences, values, choices and evaluations of the features and qualities of residential environments provide us with important information on the ways in which residential environments are used and (re)shaped. Such information may well provide a better understanding of the mechanisms behind residential preference and choice, values associated with residential environments, residential satisfaction, the quality of residential environments, the meaning of place, and the design of residential environments.
Activities and output in recent years
The Working Group has organized a workshop at every ENHR conference since 2005. Originally, the broad topic was left completely open, because we wanted to see which researchers with what kind of topics felt attracted to the subject of the Working Group, so that we could choose narrower subjects for workshops at conferences to come. We were not disappointed by the large number of different researchers who attended the workshops and who came up with a great variety of research topics. At the closing of the workshop in Rotterdam (2007) it was generally agreed upon that at the next conference the topic of the workshop should be more focused.
This materialized for the first time at the ENHR conference in Dublin (2008) with an interesting workshop on ‘Place and Place Attachment’ (14 papers presented), was continued at the 2009 conference in Prague with a workshop on ‘Dwelling and Home’ (12 papers presented), at the 2010 conference in Istanbul on ‘Public and Private Green and Open Spaces of Home’, at the 2011 conference in Toulouse in the workshop entitled ‘Innovative Methods in Residential Environments and People Studies’ (11 papers presented), and in Lillehammer in 2012 in a workshop on ‘The Users’ View of the Quality of the Residential Environment’ where 10 papers were presented. This workshop took place prior to the workshop ‘The Quality of Architectural Design and Urban Housing’ organized by the Working Group Residential Buildings and Architectural Design which allowed participants of both Working Groups to attend both workshops. A workshop around the question ‘Residential environments’ decay and revitalization: by whom and for whom?’ was organized in Tarragona in 2013 (12 papers presented) with sessions organized in order to minimize the overlap with sessions organized by the Residential Buildings and Architectural Design Working Group. At the ENHR conference in Edinburgh in 2014 a workshop was organized around the theme of more people-focused approaches to the planning and realization of residential environments during which 17 papers were presented. At the ENHR conference in Lisbon in 2015 the theme of the workshop organized by the Working Group was ‘People-focused residential environments’, which attracted 14 papers.
At the 2016 ENHR conference in Belfast, the workshop topic was left more open and attracted 12 papers. After having organized workshops at all successive conferences since 2004 it turned out that approximately 50% of the papers are presented by regular Working Group members, while the other half are by first time attendants.
The Working Group has organized a workshop at every ENHR conference since 2005. The last workshop in 2018 in Uppsala attracted 8 papers.
After having organized workshops at all successive conferences since 2004 it turned out that between 30% and 50% of the papers are presented by regular Working Group members, while the other half are by first time attendants.
Other Working Group activities 2005-2015
The general feeling of the participants at the closing of the workshop in Ljubljana in 2005, which was the first workshop of the Working Group, was that several open ends needed a more elaborate discussion for which there was no time left. Subsequently two members of the Working Group, Doris Felbinger and Helga Jonuschat of the Technical University of Berlin, took the initiative to organize a follow-up workshop entitled ‘Researching Residential Environments: Approaches – Methods – Impact’ that took place in Berlin in 2006.
Two other members of the Working Group, Leeke Reinders and Marco van der Land of OTB Research Institute for Housing, Urban and Mobility Studies, who organized a conference under the auspices of the Working Group in Delft (The Netherlands), entitled ‘Doing, Thinking, Feeling Home: The mental geography of residential environments’ which took place in October 2005, edited a special issue of Housing, Theory and Society with papers from this conference, which appeared in 2008.
Two members, Henny Coolen and Janine Meesters, edited a special issue of the Journal of Housing and the Built Environment with papers from the 2009 workshop entitled ‘House, Home and Dwelling’ that has been published in Spring 2012.
Sylvia Jansen and Henny Coolen, both members of the Working Group, edited a book entitled ‘The Measurement and Analysis of Housing Preference and Choice’ which has been published in 2011 by Springer.
Henny Coolen and Birgit Jürgenhake (Working Group Residential Buildings and Architectural Design) organized a workshop entitled ‘Researching houses and their Environments’ in Delft in 2012.
Hélène Bélanger from the Working Group, in association with the Centre de recherche sur la ville (CRV – City Research Center) and the Observatoire sur les milieux de vie (Living environments observatory) organized a workshop entitled “Living Environments and People” in Montreal on May 17, 2018. Henny Coolen from the Working Group was invited as the keynote speaker and Jana Zdráhalová from the Working Group Residential Buildings and Architectural Design was invited to present her work.
The last workshop in 2019 in Athens attracted 16 papers. After having organized workshops at all successive conferences since 2004, it turned out that between 30% and 50% of the papers are presented by regular Working Group members, while the other half are by first time attendants.
The members of the Working Group and the participants of the workshops come from many different countries and from several continents including Europe (France, United Kingdom, Spain, Belgium, Ireland, Czech Republic, Norway, Luxembourg), Northern America (Canada) and Asia (Turkey, Thailand).
The coordinators of the Working Group founded a project entitled “Residential Environments and People Working Group” at the ResearchGate platform. The objective is to increase the visibility of the Working Group and enable the participants of the workshops to stay in contact and share research activities apart from the ENHR conferences.
Future plans and activities
The Working Group coordinators plan to publish a special issue in a research journal based on papers that will be presented at the ENHR 2020 conference at the Residential Environments and People workshop. The participants from 2019 workshop were informed about the vision and agreed to participate.
Housing markets as well as the positions of stakeholders such as policymakers, builders, developers and inhabitants in these markets are constantly changing. With respect to the inhabitants it has been argued time and again that a more prominent role is needed in the housing process for the people who inhabit dwellings. Yet, the introduction in housing practice of such concepts as housing preferences, life style segmentation, and branding seem in many cases just a discreet effort to conceal the essentially top down approach to the planning, designing and building of residential environment in which the people whom it concerns are insufficiently consulted about their wants and desires. So, the focus on the relations between human beings and residential environments from the perspective of the individual is, at least partly, motivated by the recognition that in housing practice many decisions are taken by professionals such as architects, planners and policy makers, while the people who have to live in the dwellings and residential environments have hardly any say about their (re)design.
Members of the Working Group and participants of the workshops come from many different countries and from several continents including Europe (Northern, Western, Central, Eastern, Southern), North-America (Canada), Asia (Iran), Australia & New Zealand.