The Residential Area as a Physical Place

The Setting
  • Tridib Banerjee
  • William C. Baer
Part of the Environment, Development, and Public Policy: Environmental Policy and Planning book series (EDPE)


The impressions, evaluations, and images of the residential area discussed previously clearly suggest the importance of the physical place, as well as the preeminence of the social milieu. The residential area as a physical place is of particular interest to planners and designers because physical layout, housing mix, the composition of land use, and environmental furnishings are still largely determined by their professional judgment. These are their areas of expertise. It is apparent from our respondents’ mental maps as well as from their collective images that the residential area is most commonly represented as an area of housing (including the individual home) surrounded by or mixed with several “nonresidential” uses of the environment. For future residential planning and design, it would be advantageous to know which of these environmental elements or land uses are acceptable, if not desirable, in the residential context, as well as ones which are clearly unacceptable. If it can be shown that the presence or the absence of particular elements or land uses is linked to residential satisfaction and well-being, significant progress can be made toward establishing some criteria for the design of a “good” residential environment for all.


Residential Area Residential Environment Physical Place Bicycle Path Residential Satisfaction 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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  1. 1.
    Myer Spivack (1973), who built on Barker’s concept of a “behavior setting” to develop a theory of “archtypal place,” expresses similar views in reference to the precise and specific definitions given by Barker.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    After the term neighborhood hardware, suggested by Steve Pierce (1976) in his analysis of our data. Although the term neighborhood hardware is perhaps more elegant, it suggests to us a risk of being inadvertently associated with the “neighborhood unit” and its related principles.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    With the exception of the elements that can be best described as “environmental hardware,” all of the settings correspond to one or more activities presumed to have some bearing on residential satisfaction and well-being (Chapin, 1974).Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Only the settings and the hardware that were desired by four or more groups are included in this table. Also desired (usually weakly) by three or less groups are, in order of collective desirability: gymnasium or health spa; liquor store; theater for live performance; thrift shop or second hand store; botanical garden; club or lodge; bowling alley or pool hall; amusement parks or fairgrounds; beach; skating rink; antique shop; museum; sports arena or stadium; bus terminal; and alleys.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Whether this seemingly higher tolerance for nonresidential land use among the minority groups stemmed from their current experience with environments that abounded in many different land uses, or from a sense of locational isolation from many of these facilities, can only be a matter of speculation. Our data are inadequate to offer a firm answer.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Neither did they want to be near a zoo (an understandable desire), but why not near a beach? We do not know whether this reluctance to be near a beach—which is commonly seen as an amenity—reflects a perception of a high cost of living or a dislike of the leisure-seeking crowd and the resulting congestion.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Here, we have chosen to use the first five population groups (i.e. excluding the lower-income Hispanic and black respondents) because of the questionable nature of the responses from the last two groups, as discussed elsewhere. In developing this composite index, underrepresented groups were weighted to produce a uniform proportional distribution of stages in the family cycle within population groups of equal size. It is to be noted that proportional distribution by income class (ignoring ethnic differences) in this aggregate sample is, 1 (upper): 3 (middle): 1 (lower); and that of the stages in the family cycle is, 2 (households with children): 1 (households without children): 1 (elderly). We have assumed that this proportional distribution approximated the demographic profile of the larger metropolitan area. A different weighting scheme would, of course, produce a somewhat different ordering of the elements.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    The effects of population group, when entered simultaneously with the stage in the family cycle in a two-way analysis of variance framework, were significant at a.001 level for both the setting congruence and the setting deprivation variables, (using first five and all seven groups separately.) The effect of stages in the family cycle was found to be not significant in all instances. No significant interaction effects were noted.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    When organized by the stages in the family cycle, very few items appear on the list of setting aggravation and deprivation, and most of them were identified by less than half of the respondents in each category. Therefore, we did not include a table here, as it would not add anything significant to our discussion.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    See questions 9A and 9B, Appendix I.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Of the fourteen most strongly desired elements, two—“streetlights” and “walkways and pedestrian crossings”—fell into the “environmental hardware” category. The notion of distance threshhold was not particularly meaningful for these elements. Hence, these two items are not included in Figures 5.20 and 5.21.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    However, we have no good explanation for such differences between social groups. We were not able to notice any clear pattern in such intergroup differences.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    For example, according to the PTN standards, recreation facilities should be within 20 minutes’ travel time (see Table 3.6), which is substantially higher than the distance thresholds for recreation-related facilities such as neighborhood parks, as shown in Table 3.6.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1984

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tridib Banerjee
    • 1
  • William C. Baer
    • 1
  1. 1.University of Southern CaliforniaLos AngelesUSA

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