Social and environmental determinants of quality of life : the case of Glasgow

Rights statement
Awarding institution
  • University of Strathclyde
Date of award
  • 2016
Thesis identifier
  • T14303
Person Identifier (Local)
  • 200956666
Qualification Level
Qualification Name
Department, School or Faculty
  • Quality of Life (QoL), or the lack of it, is considered one of the major social problems in the UK; Scotland and Glasgow are particularly affected by it as the 2007 Glasgow Economic Audit reported that 47% of the population lived in the most deprived 15% of areas of Scotland, areas which present some of the pooorest outcomes in western Europe for child poverty, health, crime, alcohol and drug abuse (Forum, 2007). Urban design and town planning are infrequently at the centre of any policy aimed at impoving Quality of life, or lessen deprivation, as it is conceptualized and measured in Scotland; often housing policies are the only ones where architecture plays a main role, but low Quality of Life, or deprivation, is a phenomena spread across the urban environment and not confined to the debate on housing policies. This thesis investigates Quality of Life in relation to its Social and Environmental determinants and in particular in relation to Urban Form, focusing on how a few key features of urban form correlate spatially to several indicators of Quality of Life. The study focuses on how aspects of QoL can help understanding the role of urban form and concludes that urban form itself should be introduced as an indicator in the mulitleveled indexes developed to measure QoL. With the adoption of a configurational morphological approach this study brings the focus on the assessment of performance of different urban configurations, through the application of centrality approaches which allow consistent links to behavioural impacts of the urban spatial stucture (Kafka, 1994). Results show that the configurational approach, theory and tools contribute to a more subtle understanding of the role of space in the built environment, both at a large metropolitan scale and at a small neighbourhood/street scale, as well as being able to highlight essential differences between neighbourhoods in relation to the city in its entirety. Using Glasgow as a case study, this thesis finds that the distribution of space has a significant influence on social outcomes, which can at times, and depending on circumstances, be strengthened and moderated by it. Positive and negative social connotations of space configuration in Glasgow are identified and although it is not possible to say that low QoL or deprivations are a direct consequence of space configuration, we can safely argue that spatial properties play an important role in the process. The role of the structure of the built environment has often been overseen in discussions on QoL; if it can be demonstrated that urban form can have an effect on ceratin aspects of public life such as accessiblity to other people and facilities, pedestrian and vehicular traffic flows, co-presence in public space, and movement patterns, then it can be confirmed that the shape of the built environment is able to directly influence people's behaviour. Increasing Urban Quality of Life (UQOL), or lessening deprivation, are very high priority on the Scottish Government agenda and the understanding that urban form has a discernible impact on people's behaviour, opens for the prospect of addressing such issues through urban design led policies. The outcomes of this thesis widen the opportunity of adopting urban design as a fundamental competence within the set of initiaitives aimed at increasing Quality of Life and lessening deprivation.
Advisor / supervisor
  • Agapiou, Andrew
Resource Type