Rethinking the Concept of the Neighborhood: An Enabling or a Housing Model?
journal article
Aiming at achieving the utopian housing scheme, contemporary housing studies have exhibited an increasing interest in the concept of the neighborhood; its design, components, and relationship with the surrounding. The concept of the neighborhood, as introduced by Perry in 1929 is considered a utopian approach that seeks to create a residential community, socially and spatially, in which the sense of community as existed in pre-industrial cities prevails. It arose as one of the modern reformist approaches that appeared in response to the urban ills that characterized the modern capitalist society such as social disintegration, inequality, and injustice in resource distribution and life chances. Likewise, aiming at achieving the socio-spatial ideal, many postmodern approaches emerged to create the ideal residential community; most prominently is the movement of “New Urbanism.” But did these utopian approaches succeed as community-housing ideals in providing appropriate housing (spatially) and realizing the sense of community (socially) at the same time? This research attempts to read critically the concept of contemporary neighborhood, particularly the movement of “New Urbanism” in terms of its ability to fulfil its aims in producing a residential coherent community, socially and spatially. It compares the production mechanisms, decision-making processes, and distribution and nature of rights in New Urbanism with the concept of residential communities in traditional Islamic built environments. It is concluded that, adopting capitalist production mechanisms characterized by centralized domination, hierarchical power structure, and lack of residents enablement, New Urbanism was no more than a spatial solution that produced residential compounds (spatially) rather than enabled communities (socially). As such, it is merely a housing scheme that failed to be qualified as a socio-spatial ideal, as targeted.

Keywords: The neighborhood; khitta; Community; New Urbanism; Rights; Spatial; Social; Levels of the built environment
Al-Lahham, Abeer. "Rethinking the Concept of the Neighborhood: An Enabling or a Housing Model?" Archnet-IJAR: International Journal of Architectural Research, vol. 9, issue 2 (2015): 152-169.
Parent Publications
Abeer Al-Lahham