In Sweden, social segregation is a priority. In fact, the national urban development policy addresses urban districts characterised by exclusion. In most of the anti-segregation initiatives the spatial dimension is quite absent even though segregation is an inherently spatial concept. The spatial dimension is often analysed and discussed using quite simple spatial models and weak theories about the relation between spatial and social phenomena.
This paper discusses how spatial theories and methods can contribute to the segregation issue and attempts to study the possibilities how to counteract segregation through urban design and planning. Because urban form and urban structures influence living conditions, it is relevant to explore these spatial conditions with a spatial approach. However, the spatial dimension can never be fully understood or successfully managed without a powerful theory of space as a social entity.
There is a need to fill a knowledge gap within the architectural research field. What we need is a toolbox of theories and methods that are able to link physical forms and spatial structures to social outcomes that correspond to real space, the space that people inhabit in their everyday activities.
The role of public space has not been highlighted in the debate and it is argued that it has been underrated. Segregation in public space has a strong influence on issues such as exclusion since it partly determines the conditions for urban life, the accessibility to urban life and accessibility to important functions in society. It is argued that a spatial approach opens new possibilities for improvements in both vulnerable areas as well as in the city as a whole. If social segregation – or rather exclusion – has to do with segregation in public space, it would be wise to consider how policies in spatial planning and urban design can address the problem.
Architectural Inquiries april 2008, Chalmers University of Technology in Göteborg, at the Department of Architecture