Smart Urban Design Focuses on Safety and Relationships for Healthier Interactions

Whenever I rush into a difficult conversation without first creating a safe space to have that conversation, I invariably regret my impulsivity. Difficult conversations, especially relationship-oriented ones, demand paying attention to the ‘how’ conversation is to take place as much as ‘what’ the conversation is about. No matter the place, safety precedes authentic conversation.

Relationships on the street

Urban design is a lot like difficult conversations.  Paying attention to safety and relationships increases the odds for safe, healthy neighbourhoods.  Steve Woolrich, of Rethink Urban, knows this as well as anyone.

Recently, Steve and I got together for a waterfront chat about his work. Steve walks the relationship talk. Plus, he’s a friendly, no b.s. guy.

Steve is an advocate and instructor of Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED); a relationship-based urban design model. He gives an overview of CPTED in this short video:

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CPTED and Steve Woolrich 

From the CPTED website, “CPTED is a multi-disciplinary approach to deterring criminal behaviour through environmental design. CPTED strategies rely upon the ability to influence offender decisions that precede criminal acts by affecting the built, social and administrative environment. It is pronounced sep-ted and is known by various labels or names around the world, such as Designing Out Crime and other acronyms.”

As Steve touches on in the video, CPTED first came to be in the 1960s.

As a CPTED practitioner, Steve gives major credits to his first instructor, Timothy Crowe, and the work of Jane Jacobs, for his approach to community projects, both small and large scale.

“Tim taught me everything I needed to know about meeting the objectives of the human function.  He always use to say ‘Never look at the environment the same way again.’  Jane has also taught me many things over the years and I continue to stand behind her work, particularly the idea that Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.'”

Steve says, “CPTED has gone through an amazing evolution over the years, there have been many people involved and the methodology works brilliantly when applied properly.”

Increasingly, that evolution involves the social dynamics associated with living in an urban built area; including: individuals struggling with trauma, addictions, and homelessness.

Structure influences behaviour 

When you deep dive into Maslow’s Hierarchy, security of person and property comes high on our must-have needs list. Lack of a safe, secure environment presents a huge obstacle to fully belonging and contributing to society.

If you want people to be together, better, then design structures that facilitate collaborative, healthy behaviours. Structuring for behaviour is also a fundamental principle for a collaborative organization.

If its safer streets you want, I suggest you contact Steve, at Rethink Urban.

In relationships, the ‘how’ is as important as the ‘what’ we talk about.

[Ben provides conflict management services for small to medium-sized businesses, nonprofits and local governments. Contact Ben.]

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