Culture aspects

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Culture aspects in urban planning have been classically addressed in terms of urban arts and city planning. Cultural resources have become recognised as an important component of urban space. Growing features are cultural policy and practice. Relevant issues are: societal needs, socio-economic issues, the natural/structural/infrastructural environment, and social aspects of urban planning.

For the purpose of Securipedia, aspects known as - security culture - from the technological point of view are safety aspects.

Concepts of culture


  1. Technically, culture is linked to cognition and refers to people’s assumptions about the world.[1]
  2. The classical policy concept of political culture centres on norms and values guiding citizens’ assessments, expectations and behaviour consequences.[2]
  3. Culture is regarded as a threshold criteria for defining when a society will accept a problem (such as a security threat/challenge) to be solved.[3]
  4. Cultures prescribe members' relations with the community and how these members orient their actions.[4]
  5. The cognitive dimension of culture is especially important to address aspects, such as perception of vulnerability and building of cognitive foundations for citizen resilience.

Security-related aspects of culture

  • Culture aspects are an important ingredient of citizen resilience that urban planning can support and that, in turn, urban planning can take advantage of to tackle security aspects.
  • Existing public security cultures influence the criteria for societal acceptance of urban security planning decisions and results, and for the addressing of security aspects in that context.
  • Urban structure and cultural artifacts resulting from urban planning influence a society and its culture. That may involve and challenge ethics aspects.
  • The concept of (security) culture is important for effective security related urban planning.
  • Activating civic culture can also be a method to use in urban planning in order to efficiently address security aspects.

Importance of culture aspects

Risks in neglect of culture aspects

Security issues which could arise if security culture is not appropriately addressed in urban planning, include the following:

  • Planning irrespective of, or even against, societal norms and values;
  • Raising crime incidents;
  • Increasing citizens' perception of insecurity;
  • Increasing gap between felt and factual security;
  • Loss of legitimacy of public and planning authorities.

Main recommendations on considering culture aspects

  • Get to know culture: Familiarise with public security cultures, which influence citizens’ acceptance of urban security planning decisions and built environment resulting from those planning decisions.
  • Consider upcoming societal needs, societal/demographic changes: This includes thoroughly considering public views (e.g. from surveys, studies,citizen participation etc.) in planning ideas and processes.
  • Mind cultural meaning: Consider the influence of culture on urban structure, and of urban planning on culture, bearing in mind that culture aspects go beyond preserving historic artefacts and protecting the traditional image of the city. Culture is linked to dynamic societal processes, and it among other things co-determines the meaning that citizens ascribe to built urban structure. These processes cannot be planned and meaning cannot just be socially transmitted by design of urban space.
  • Analyse risks comprehensively: Use the culture of risk of a society in order to determine security aspects in urban planning, and needs to protect, that may be overlooked by technological approaches to risk analysis.
  • Integrate cultural components of resilience: Consider in resilience-enhancing planning that resilience, and the vulnerabilities towards which it is directed, include elements of public culture – such as citizens morale and societal preparedness, social networks, etc. Planning should work with – not over or against – those aspects. Resilience as capability to learn and adapt to changing environment essentially involves societal characteristics. This involves styles of how citizens perceive urban environment and security (gaps), as well as their expectations how this should be addressed by authorities.

Approaches to addressing aspects of security culture in urban planning

Relevant schools of thought

The following approaches/schools of thought are of particular relevance for covering culture-related security aspects in urban planning:

Checklists for practical consideration of culture aspects in security-related urban planning

Footnotes and references

  1. E.g. Keesing R.M. : Theories of Culture, in: Annual Review of Anthropology, vol. 3, 1974, 73-97.
  2. Almond G.A., Verba S.: The Civic Culture: Political Attitudes and Democracy in Five Nations. Princeton, NJ: University of Princeton Press, 1963.
  3. Schütz A.: Gesammelte Aufsätze. Bd.3: Studien zur phänomenologischen Philosophie. Den Haag: Nijhoff, 1972, 156-157.
  4. Baum H.S.: Culture Matters–But It Shouldn't Matter Too Much, in: Burayidi M.A. (ed.): Urban Planning in a Multicultural Society, Westport, CT: Greenwood, 2000, 115-136 (115).