Cities designed for social isolation?

October 23, 2019

Although cities are the epicentre of human activity, loneliness is a growing concern. Our city streets are filled with anonymous faces and people rarely know who their neighbours are. The way cities are build is not working in our favour. Urbanites often feel alone and miss a sense of belonging. We believe that redesigning public places and coliving provides a solution to the global loneliness epidemic.

Many urban millennials are seeking for a more social lifestyle

In an age where we are more connected than ever, it is ironical to see that we have never felt so isolated.Research from YouGov (2019) finds that millennials report feeling lonely much more often than older generations, such as their Gen X and Baby Boomer counterparts.

Three in 10 Millennials say they always of often feel lonely    

How often, if ever, do you feel lonely? (% who say they “always” or “often” feel lonely)

Nevertheless, cities have been and continue to be very successful in attracting younger generations, such as millennials and Generation Z. Cities are the promised land of opportunity,where one has access to the best jobs, healthcare, education social life.  Despite all the benefits cities have to offer, urbanites continue to feel lonely. We would like to understand why and what we can do about it.

Understanding why people in cities feel lonely

City newcomers often leave their social circle behind when they pursue the opportunities in the big city. Of course, they will meet new people at school or at work, but the city’s design itself does not provide the built-in sociability that comes with school or work.

Modern cities often lack a proper design to stimulate community and a sense of belonging. This has been fuelled by decades of lack of investments in public spaces and the construction of isolated blocks filled with unaffordable apartments. The availability of public space, where there is a feeling of joint ownership with other citizens, has decreased. When public space is utilized in the right way, it provides the opportunity to mix and connect with others. It’s not that the built environment is the only driver of social interaction, but it can certainly either stimulate or hinder potential interactions.

In addition, the way how apartments are designed also adds to higher levels of urban isolation. It is common that people live on the same floor for years and don’t even know the name of their next-door neighbour. Often, we only speak with our neighbours when we meet them in the elevator or staircase, because these are the only places for potential interaction. Nevertheless, urbanites who report feeling lonely indicate that they desire more interactions with the neighbours. Something that is very common in rural areas, but extremely rare in our urban highrises.

How can we fight urban loneliness?

The solution to urban isolation could be to provide better designed residential buildings together with access to better quality public spaces. Habit aims to facilitate this by creating beautifully designed coliving homes where there is a perfect balance between privacy and connectivity. Having access to open shared spaces in your building it becomes way easier to know, and interact with, your neighbours when you want to.  Always invited, never obligated!

We believe we should fight for more human cities, where it becomes easier to create friendships and build relationships. We encourage city councils, developers and most importantly,citizens, to take a stand and together create thriving societies.