Privacy: A Human Right and a Necessity for Quality of Life

Privacy refers to an individual’s ability to control the amount and type of contact he has with others and Lawson [6] suggests that satisfying the need for privacy by design should be achieved by offering spatial boundaries that users can operate in order to organize hierarchically their social contacts, both inside and outside the home.

It is generally true that as population density increases, the greater the potential of emergence of conflicts and unpleasant situations. These negative manifestations of density are due to the increase of social contacts, and therefore of unwanted contacts, doubled by lack of control [6]. They are not the result of physical density of people or spatial elements.

 [6] Lawson B. The Social and Psychological Issues of High Density. In: Ng E, editor. Designing High-Density Cities for Social and Environmental Sustainability. London: Earthscan; pp. 285-292, 2010.

In July 2015, the Seattle City Council voted unanimously to adopt Resolution 31598 affirming privacy as a human right and aligning the work of the City’s privacy initiative with the right to privacy as described in Article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the United Nations.

Dense environments have always carried dual connotations – on one side they are considered positive due to the sustainable use of resources and the intense social links they generate, but on the other side they are recognized to generate negative effects on humans, such as stress. Starting with the industrial revolution, a strong debate arose regarding the benefits and downsides of density, especially regarding the relation between existing crowded urban environments and the programmatic development of new healthy environments. The debate remained unsolved for a long time, until recent studies have determined an important element that actually shifts the balance between good or bad density, namely the quality of an environment.

 Rudy Uytenhaak Architectenbureau

On the other hand, negative implications [of density] arise in relation to the same urban components, identified by the congestion of urban landscapes, reduction of urban green areas and the occurrence of heat islands, deterioration of urban networks and traffic infrastructure by overloading, inadequate alleyways, and not least an increase of psychological stress for the inhabitants.

If Seattle is going to be a great City again [See our post of March 8, “Is Seattle Still a Great City?”], we believe that it needs to better align its policies with its political pronouncements. Fairness and justice demand residential development standards that insure livability for everyone. Getting HALA right would be a great start!