How the Architecture of Housing Blocks Amplifies or Dampens Interethnic Tensions in Ethnically Diverse Neighbourhoods

Open Access Journal | ISSN: 2183-2803

Article | Open Access

How the Architecture of Housing Blocks Amplifies or Dampens Interethnic Tensions in Ethnically Diverse Neighbourhoods


  • Maurice Crul Department of Sociology, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, The Netherlands
  • Carl H. D. Steinmetz Expats & Immigrants Amsterdam B.V., The Netherlands
  • Frans Lelie Department of Sociology, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, The Netherlands


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Abstract:  This article explores how the architecture of neighbourhoods influences interethnic tensions in ethnically diverse neighbourhoods. We found that people of Dutch descent living in apartments in four storey walk-ups in ethnically diverse innercity neighbourhoods seem less likely to feel threatened by ethnic diversity than people living in in similarly diverse suburbs characterized by larger housing blocks featuring inner courtyards and galleries. Further analysis reveals that the residents of these suburbs share various types of semi-public spaces and have competing interests in using them, whereas the residents of inner-city neighbourhoods share fewer semi-public spaces and therefore have more scope to choose when and how to engage in interethnic contact with other residents. We also explore residents’ housing histories and examine differences between people who either have more negative or more positive views on diversity with regard to their active participation in various organizations. This last piece of the puzzle will be used to analyse the potential for both negative and positive messages about ethnic diversity to spread. Based on the empirical findings, we will formulate some building blocks that can help to further explain the level of perceived ethnic tensions in ethnically diverse neighbourhoods.

Keywords:  diversity; ethnic tensions; housing; interethnic contact; neighbourhoods

Published:   20 March 2020


DOI: https://doi.org/10.17645/si.v8i1.2109


© Maurice Crul, Carl H. D. Steinmetz, Frans Lelie. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.