Social Sustainability & Architects

GiloH - November 22, 2012


‘Social Sustainability: Architects and Social Sustainability’ Forum at AIA NSW Chapter

While aspects of environmental and economical sustainability has been widely explored through policies and technologies, the social aspects was largely neglected in mainstream sustainability debates. in recent years the area of social sustainability as a separate area of focus in determining public policy has been rapidly growing . For the profession of Architecture, a better understanding of what it is, and how the discipline can contribute to achieving social sustainability, is vital. Can architects grab this area by the scruff of the neck, before this becomes yet another area of professional specialty taken by another consultant?

I was invited by the Australian institute of Architects (AIA), NSW Chapter together with Arch. Anthony Nolan (from Kennedy & associates) and Allison Heller (Sydney Council) to give a short overview of how we see social sustainability and designing the built environment for social sustainable.

Anthony gave an overview of the new AIA social sustainability policy he’s working on, emphasizing on the frame work for creating thriving communities, community building by design with the importance of the architecture institute and architects  having a leading role in the social shaping of our environment through engagement and consultation with the communities we design for.

Allison presented through case studies from around the world how spaces mainly in disadvantaged areas/ suburbs of Paris, can be reactivated and transformed through the introduction of green walls and roofs, communal gardens, and other spaces which allows for social interaction. A wonderful example Allison gave was the High Line in New York where an unused rail line in down town Manhattan was transformed into a set of continues diverse landscapes and social spaces.


My presentations introduced the cohousing neighbourhood model which demonstrates how through positive process where future residents are actively involved in the character making of their future neighbourhoods, through design and group processes, creating a place where sharing, respect and support is at its core a place that allows for spontaneous and intentional interactions through social design and activities created by the residents, in short, a great place to live in.

The presentations followed by Q&A ,with many great questions ,input and discussions with the audience, one that left a taste for more discussions and dwell into emerging issues concerning participation, needs, social capital, the economy, the environment, and more recently, with the notions of happiness, well being and quality of life.


In Community







  • High Line-
  • Frog Neighbourhood, Courtesy of Liz Walker EcoVillage at Ithach
  • Cascade Cohousing, Gilo Holtzman

Text abstracts:

  • Anthony Nolan, ‘Places for People: Architects and Social Sustainability’ Pre readings for Forum Tuesday 6th November 2012 at 6pm, Tusculum



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>