Friday, November 1, 2019

Life in the village - The high-level-needs gap

Future neighbourhoods need adaptive public spaces
that satisfy many needs

By Mateja Mihinjac

I had a fairly happy childhood. The suburban village my parents adopted as a family home offered the necessary amenities - two small grocery stores, a bakery, fresh produce store, kindergarten, primary school and a small library. And they were all within a ten-minute walk. We also had a home garden, we could play on the street and I was surrounded by the green fields and nearby hills that became my beloved recreational spots.

Most importantly, this was a safe neighbourhood.

However, as I grew older, my needs and wants also increased. Village life no longer satisfied my yearning for exploration, learning, working and socialising, and the surroundings and facilities felt outdated and bland. It was as if time in the village had stopped.

A poorly lit underpass and graffitied train station sends a message
to village residents - no one cares about this space!


I later realized it was me who had outgrown the village. It continues to satisfy basic needs, but it hasn’t evolved. It has failed to adapt to the reality that, more than ever, humans strive for more than simply surviving and addressing our biological needs. We have higher-level psychological needs such as feelings of belonging, self-esteem and social connection. We have needs for personal growth and self-fulfilment. Abraham Maslow outlined this in the Theory of Human Motivation nearly 80 years ago.

Moreover, we crave a meaningful existence by being able to contribute to the experience of others. Maslow explained this highest level satisfaction in his later work using the term self-transcendence.

It should therefore not sound unusual or extraordinary for people to expect that their neighbourhood should offer a high quality of life by providing opportunities for realising those high-level needs.

Ample food choices in farmers markets and local stores
should offer healthy choices


This is the message that Greg Saville and I convey in our recently published article Third Generation CPTED.

The main premise of our new theory is that for the highest quality of life, a 21st Century neighbourhood should offer more than minimum services and necessities. Good transport, proper sanitation, a healthy environment, ample food, adequate shelter, and local safety are critical, but not enough. Recreation opportunities and social activities too are necessary, but they still don't reach the highest level of motivational satisfaction. So residents drive away and abandon their neighbourhood to find something they cannot locate nearby.

Applying the Neighbourhood Liveability Hierarchy we propose that residents should be able to strive for more advanced opportunities to satisfy their highest needs, while all the basic and modest provisions exist in every place. Such an advanced neighbourhood planned in a holistic and strategic way will help it evolve to support the needs of its inhabitants.

A neighbourhood livability hierarchy for satisfying human needs


In SafeGrowth we offer the hub concept as an epicentre for such developments under the ownership of neighbourhood residents.

The main premise of the concept is participatory democracy and decision-making potential of the residents who would continually assess and address neighbourhood needs thus help it maintain a high quality of life.

Our SafeGrowth advocate and friend Carlos Gutierrez has recently also offered a view of networked community-driven hubs in the violence-stricken nation of Honduras. His story is remarkable because it showcases how community-driven neighbourhood hubs drive local progress and offer opportunities for high-level needs, which concurrently aim to address violence and promote safety.

It's difficult to predict the shape of future urban design,
but it must include places of refuge, nature and positive social interaction


As our basic needs are met, we must create places that allow us opportunities to grow towards higher-level needs and uncover innovative and exciting ways to satisfy them. If we can’t find those opportunities in our living environment, we will look elsewhere and alienate ourselves from our neighbourhood and its inhabitants in the process.

Unfortunately, so many amenities are concentrated in large downtown centres, or in huge, disconnected retail box stores surrounded by acres of parking, that they restrict the opportunities for satisfying high-level needs in suburban areas like the village of my youth. The suburbs become places that excel in basic services and residential use, but where opportunities for self-actualization and transcendence are rare.

Our neighbourhoods must respond to the needs of 21st Century lifestyles and they need opportunities for their inhabitants to flourish in local life and participate in meaningful neighbourhood decision-making. Perhaps then, as neighbourhood attachment grows, residents will enjoy their neighbourhood not only because it’s their living environment but also because it helps them fulfil their potential.