Cover Image

To each, their beach: unveiling nexus between architecture and society in urban beaches.

Lucy Donegan, Edja Bezerra Faria Trigueiro


In Brazil, beaches are important public spaces for socialising and recreation uses, often being referred to as democratic arenas, despite the evidence that distinct groups of people choose different beaches. Understanding that public spaces are essential assets of urban societies, and that spatial form acts to shape the social life within them, this research seeks, from a broader perspective, to improve knowledge of how architecture may affect modes of use at urban beaches, in the sense of rendering them more or less lively and socially inclusive; and also to ascertain whether and how architecture relates to the stereotyped references regarding three specific case studies. These are urban beaches in Natal, Brazil, that despite being intensively used and exhibiting comparable traits—enticing landscapes, public transport and leisure facilities—have divergent reputations: Ponta Negra as middle-class and touristy; Redinha as a remote common folk haunt; Praia do Meio as ‘decadent’. The interplay of spatial configuration (the voids) and built form (the masses) is examined in the light of information about whether and to what extent beachgoers with diverse social characteristics were found to be present on each beach, showed mutual awareness of the others’ presence, felt familiar with the area, and expressed positive opinions about it. Findings revealed that none of the case studies ‘mixed all groups together’ but that, by favouring or restricting movement at different scales, contrasting accessibility patterns facilitate the overlap of journeys or separate them into spatial enclaves that relate to people with distinct social characteristics. The results, therefore, suggest that certain architectural attributes may ease or aggravate social prejudices by acting to either promote potential encounters between different people or set them apart, each to their own.


Architecture; Society; Urban Vitality; Beaches; Natal

Full Text: JOSS_7_2016_P87-106