Condominiums, Risk and Quality of Life. A discussion (also) about the City - a trip over the contradictory space
Departamento de Sociologia ISCTE - Instituto Superior de Ciências do Trabalho e da Empresa Lisboa, Portugal
Absent, in Portugal, of a clear legal agreement, the notion of closed (or private) condominium report to a whole of architectural, social and symbolic heterogeneities, usually -but not exclusively- associated to a mode of formal aggregation of closed vicinities.
Its rising and expansion has gathered a notorious public visibility and a markedly little consensual one.
Dwelling without city or sheltered nests in a menacing environment, redoubts of withdrawal or laboratories of what some designate as "private urban governance", the phenomenon invites us to question Space, City and Democracy, this being a strategic issue when discussing the city we (think we) have and the ideal one to live in.
Based on theoretical and fieldwork performed in Lisbon?s Metropolitan Area - in which a dialogue has been analytically established between agents/actors diversely associated to the social production/appropriation of these sort of dwelling (from residents to local decision/policy makers) - we travel among the space of contents associated to the idea of closed condominium, namely in what concerns to: the material and symbolic marks which operate the distinction between these and other sorts of residential developments and the reasons/impacts underlying its rising and expansion.
Besides points of rupture, some mutual understandings and consensus arise, enlightening a catalogue of concerns/claims/demands about the present city, shared by confessed its adepts and assumed oppositionists.
The analysis of these elements question the causal relationship often established between security, fear and the expansion of closed condominiums - a strong component of an ideal-type of gated community that connects worldwide expressions and discussions of the phenomenon.
Bearing in mind that a menace is something socially and culturally mediated (Kasperson), it also asks us to clarify the non equivalent notions of security, safety and control of uncertainty - this being an important issue when discussing how to incorporate the daily life assertions of fear, risk and uncertainty in Urban Policy.
Finally, the presentation shares some results that reveal the contradictory images of closed condominiums, seen either as places of safety, security and reliability, but also as spots of danger, exposition, transgression and social amplification of risk.