Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-7635

Article | Open Access

Geographies of Encounter, Public Space, and Social Cohesion: Reviewing Knowledge at the Intersection of Social Sciences and Built Environment Disciplines

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Abstract:  This article seeks to address long-standing questions in academia, practice, and policymaking regarding the role public spaces might have in promoting cross-cultural encounters and experiences of social cohesion in socially and culturally diverse urban contexts, and what theories and methods researchers and practitioners might use to objectively evaluate this. To answer these questions, this article carries out a systematic literature review of theories and methods for studying person-environment relationships from a range of social science and built-environment disciplines. The review provides a basis for interdisciplinary knowledge exchange to develop an innovative theoretical and methodological framework that draws together key analyses of social cohesion with recent urban design literature, to hypothesize how key social dimensions that characterise intercultural encounter and their social experience of cohesion link to physical, management, and use attributes of public space design. The proposed framework provides a multi-dimensional account of how public spaces with different design approaches are connected to different experiences of social encounters, which in turn impact varied experiences of social cohesion, paving the way for new knowledge about the geographies of encounters.

Keywords:  diversity; intercultural encounters; public space; social cohesion; urban design



© Patricia Aelbrecht, Quentin Stevens. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.