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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Privacy in private outdoor spaces in multifamily housing projects Gatt, Carmel


Evaluation studies on housing developments rarely tackle privacy in depth, restricting themselves to questions such as "do-you-have-enough-privacy?" Most works on privacy are conceptual. There also exists a general lack of interest in the study of social and psychological behaviour in the spaces between buildings, and the effect of site layouts in housing. This study combines the two in an attempt to determine attitudes towards privacy in private open spaces in multifamily housing developments. A review of the literature indicated an emphasis on the aspect of control over the curtailment of interaction, as opposed to the more popular notion of privacy as withdrawal. This concept was applied in this study to residents of multifamily developments. It was hypothesized that compatibility between neighbours would reduce the need for physical separation and demonstrate a reliance on social strategies for control over interaction, below the threshold level of intrusion. Moreover it was hypothesized that preferences and dissatisfactions for privacy would be associated with the perceived adjustment of residents to the neighbourhood, as well as congruence with the neighbours. The concept of privacy was dissected into four states, based on the works of Westin (1970) and Marshall (1970). Two of these (Seclusion and Intimacy) dealt with physical conditions, and the other two (Anonymity and Hot-Neighbouring) dealt with the social conditions related to privacy. 50 respondents, were randomly selected from two low middle income, medium density housing developments. One was a co-operative and the other was a rent regulated housing complex. A specially designed questionnaire board was used to ask the subjects to rate their preferences for and assessment of, privacy in private outdoor spaces, for 11 activity categories, for the four states defined. Dissatisfaction was measured as the difference between the preferred and the achieved ratings. Although statistically the hypotheses were only proven partially right, other evidence in the study supports the following conclusions: a) Privacy is very complex and changes with the activity , and the person involved. There is no clear cut differentiation in the utilization of social over physical mechanisms to maintain it. b) A few activities have very specific privacy requirements, but in general people do not care very much about the privacy in private outdoor spaces. c) Management and/or tenure which improve relationships between neighbours create a greater community sense, cause a tolerance for more interaction, and reduce emphasis for physical barriers. d) Perceived fit in the neighbourhood had a greater effect on dissatisfaction and preferences for privacy than congruence with the neighbours. The hypotheses also generated additional information regarding attitudes towards social and physical elements in multifamily projects, which are only remotely related to privacy.

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