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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 77670 Find in a Library
Title: Writing on the Wall
Author(s): J MansfieldMansfield J
Corporate Author: Horizon
United States of America
Project Director: J Mansfield
Date Published: 1973
Sponsoring Agency: British Broadcasting Corporation
London, W1M 4AA, England
Format: Film
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This British film investigates the thesis that modern architecture actually encourages people to commit crime and uses case examples to demonstrate the positive attributes of defensible space.
Abstract: Oscar Newman, a researcher and proponent of the concept of defensible space, narrates the film. The film shows public housing projects in New York City, San Francisco, London, and Paris, as well as in St. Louis, to illustrate the idea that the design of an environment strongly affects people's vulnerability to crime. The way buildings are put together, such as how many families use one entrance, the height of the buildings, the color or lack of color, the location of play areas, and the priority given to people's needs as opposed to an architectural theory, all contribute to the way residents perceive themselves in the building. Anonymous buildings, with as many as 500 families sharing a single entrance, contribute to vandalism and high crime rates, and impose restrictions on residents' lifestyles. Low-rise buildings designed with defensible space, in which only a few families share one entry and in which people can hear and see the activities of residents from their windows, contribute to a feeling of belonging. In these buildings, residents often interact much more with each other and possess a sense of pride in maintaining 'their' building. Fencing, ample lighting, low brick walls, curbs, railings, and shrubbery all contribute to defining the boundaries of private (defensible) and public space. In such an atmosphere, vandalism is rare and residents interact on a daily friendly basis with each other. Oscar Newman shows what happened in a New York low-rise project that was changed from one with no defensible space to one with much defensible space. Residents developed a sense of pride in their community, planted gardens, and maintained the grounds. At the end of the second year of improvements, the crime rate had dropped to one-tenth of what it had been.
Index Term(s): Architectural design; Audiovisual aids; Environmental quality; Facility security; Films; Human factors engineering
Note: *This document is currently unavailable from NCJRS. This is a 16mm color film. It is 55 minutes in length.
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