The Healthy Connection

Yahia Abulfadl



Galashiels town centre acts as an important node to the Town’s inhabitants providing service and forming a culture gathering point where people can meet and share. However, as we go further away from the town center towards the neighborhood social interaction decreases significantly. In addition to increased walking distance leading to less social ties and decreased public participation due to the far proximity. Ocabi points out that the scarcity of people can be directly related to the death of the city. (Ocabi, 2011)

My aim is to rejuvenate Galashiels neighbourhoods creating a more engaged and integrated communities, improved social ties between neighbours generating a unique sense of community.



Social seclusion:

“The Scottish Borders faces a range of social challenges as a result of the rural nature of the area and the relative isolation of many communities” Final Report of the Borders Working Party: Social Inclusion Agenda. (Borders Working Party, 1998)

Isolation of communities:

(Source: Resource booklet, 2008)

Neighborhoods in Galashiels is highly dependent on the town center as the place for shopping, eating and social engagement. Galashiels with a population of 14,500 continues to grow considerably according to Scottish Borders resource booklet since 1991 with the proportion of elderly people is higher than in any other local authority area in Scotland. (Resource booklet, 2008) Thus, large walking distance will stand as a drawback to the elderly, disabled, young mothers and children highlighting an importance for a close proximity public space. (Francis, 2012)

For Instance, it takes 23min from Netherbank south Galashiels to reach Town center and over 30 min to Tweed banks retail park in which automobile will be preferred as distance increase, hence less social engagement. Social interaction in spaces can provide relief from daily routines, sustenance for people’s sense of community (Cattell et al., 2008). In addition to a strong sense of community has been associated with improved wellbeing, increased feelings of safety and security, participation in community affairs and civic responsibility (Francis et al., 2012).

New expansions, further Isolation:

HCIssuemapAs a response to housing demands, there will be new settlements added on the peripheries further increasing the gap between neighbourhoods and the social node, Town centre, hence there is not yet proposals for neighbourhood integration.

A border inhabitant and commuter says that the Borders is slowly dying and It is not the vibrant, growing community many of the councilors would make it out to be. He also questions how would someone leave a scenic area as the borders, if it meant to wake up hours early to reach Edinburgh for work. (Recource booklet, 2008)


The social connections amongst residents of neighbourhoods are worsening due to numerous factors, including longer commutes, smaller family networks, increased mobility, suburbanisation, and the spread of leisure time television and social media use dominance (Francis et al., 2008).  Also  the change in work patterns and increased mobility. (Kazmierczak, 2013)



“Social and physical environments do not exist independently of each other; any environment is the result of continuing interactions.”  (Cattell et al., 2008)

This demonstrates how the current physical setting, transport and proximity discussed intertwines with the social well-being and plays an important role in sustaining culture. Moreover, The new settlements expansions and population increase in Galashiels gives a potential to create spaces that offers opportunities.

Phase #1:

A bridge, Community Center:HCBRIDGE

Creating community centres that offer both interior and exterior space will help engaging more people through different weathers. Francis points out the importance of creating a good environment, for people to participate in a supportive and democratic habitat that satisfies human needs such as comfort, all types of engagement and discovery. (Francis, 2012) Ray Oldenburg describes Public places as third places, an intermediate link between home and work. Enriching the quality of life and enhancing well-being, hence, cultivating the sense of belonging. (Francis, 2012)

Inorder to achieve the expected culture rejuvenation and social cohesion.  Project must engage the peripheries, creating a bridge that cross-over routine and improve well-being, fixing a strong social node to unite the peripheries and neighborhoods alike. The node will be a community centre that will provide shelter from Galashiels weather and have also an access to outdoor area.

The centre will create a close place where elderly, children, young mothers and disables can access within a short walk. It will also provide a wide variety of services and activities to ensure the diversity of the users that will contribute to the collective identity of the community. (Dolors, 2004)

Phase #2

A connection of Community nodes HClink

After building the community centres within the different neighbourhoods, connecting them through public spaces, pocket parks and comfortable pathways will act as strong linkage between the centres and finally leading to the Town Centre.

Connecting the community centres will provide a more engaging united town and prevent future isolation due to lack of social ties, bringing the community closer together.


Young mothers: Project will aim to reach most of Galashiels community, Young mothers are of big importance,since they will not be able to take long walking distances with her baby.

Seniors: Community centre will be engaging seniors through the advantage of close proximity to each neighbourhood and will host numerous activities such as chess zones, reading and dining areas.

Disabled: Disabled will engage through activities, socialization and participating in community events. Same as Focus Community Centre, there will be day events and classes.

Youth: Through the flexibility and adaptability of the centres space, there will be seminars that can be educative and also social events for the youth.

Children: Community centres will offer a safe place for children to play engage and communicate, through exterior playgrounds and interior playing spaces.

Families: Important users to target through hosting events such as weddings, dining and music events for the family to enjoy their time together and engage with the other families in the community.

Adults: Community centre aims to act as a bridge between daily routine, such as work routine and daily life. Adults and work collegues should enjoy passing by and staying in the community centre.





Walkerville Civic & Community Centre (Source: Archdaily)

Case Study #1 

Walkerville Civic & Community Centre / JPE Design Studio

The center is located in a dense neighbourhood in Gilberton, Australia. The building restores and retrofit an Old Town Hall building and creates public spaces for the council and community.  Engaging people through Urban forecourt and a Communal kitchen, where people can join to cook, eat and interact.

The project a multi-functional and adaptable space strategy, It also Naturally ventilates the library space and the offices, and night purge at night decreasing energy use.

The project helps exploring ideas of retrofitting existing buildings and to design adaptable and flexible spaces for more diverse functions for the community.


Case Study #2 Empowering the connection:
Revitalising a Regional Town: A Sustainable Community in the Making

The Manning Riverside Precinct is located in Taree, Australia . Inwhich the project aims to connect the city centre with the waterfront. The projects vision is to preserve existing qualities and create a vibrant and diverse community. The project had multiple sustainable objectives,

The key principles concerning the Social sustainability were:

  1. Enhance key view corridors to the river by creating a connected linked landscape.
  2. Shorter distances with plenty small-scale meeting places
  3. Facilitating services for people to engage with their local community
  4. Promotion of recreational activities, leisure activities and arts. Offering sport activities and engagement with other sport.
  5. Adding Pocket parks and enhancing Marina public square.
  6. Locations and footprints of residential areas should be developed within the framework of public open space and aspects of community building.

This project reflects to the community centers connection and integration through enhancing recreational activities and arts, and how the designer linked many social aspects to achieve a socially sustainable master plan.







Borders Working Party (1998) . Available at: (Accessed: 1 March 2015).

Cattell, V., Dines, N., Gesler, W. & Curtis, S., 2008. Mingling, observing, and lingering: Everyday public spaces and. Health & Place, pp. 544-561.

Dolors, M., Ramon, G., Ortiz, A. & Prats, M., 2004. Urban planning, gender and the use of public space in a peripherial neighbourhood of Barcelona. pp. 215-223.

Francis, J., Giles-Cortie, B., Wood, L. & Knuiman, M., 2012. Creating sense of community: The role of public space. Journal of Environmental Psychology, pp. 401-409.

Francis, J., Wood, L., Knuiman, M. & Giles-Corti, B., 2012. Quality or quantity? Exploring the relationship between Public Open Space. Social Science & Medicine, pp. 1570-1577.

Kazmierczak, A., 2012. The contribution of local parks to neighbourhood social ties. Landscape and Urban Planning, Volume 109, pp. 31-44.

Lehmann, S., 2010. The Principles of Green Urbanism: Transforming the City fo Sustainability. London: Earthscan.

Okabe, A., 2011. Reclaiming Public Space for People: The Roots of European Urban Regeneration. DBJ Research Center on Global Warmming, pp. 1-23.

“Walkerville Civic & Community Centre / JPE Design Studio” 25 Feb 2014. ArchDaily. Accessed 01 Mar 2015. <;


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