Planning and Designing for Solitude in the City
Nancy Marshall (University of New South Wales)
In an urban context defined by technological pervasiveness, densification and place-making, our understanding of the meaning and experience of solitude is changing. Solitude has traditionally been defined as the state of being alone, however this understanding is limiting and is being challenged in the postmodern era. Living in increasingly dense cities can be stressful, intense, pressured and hectic which negatively impacts upon many city inhabitants’ mental health, productivity and well-being. Some urbanists argue that fracturing social cohesion and social isolation are impacting many residents living in big urban centers – one response to these conditions has been a planning trend to activate the public realm to encourage lively and inclusive cities.
This research has studied solitude and challenges the concept to no longer mean that a person has to be alone to find solitude in the city. The research seeks to understand the extent to which city planners and designers should design and plan to provide places in the city for solitude. On-the-street questionnaires and behaviour mapping undertaken in the centre of Sydney Australia, as well as discourse analysis and literature reviews, were leveraged to inform the results and recommendations. It has found that the positive and beneficial aspects of solitude have been neglected as a pivotal part of individual lived experiences in the urban environment.