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Urban Studies

The Living Environment of the Future: Environmental or Systemic Approach?

Burtseva Vera Sergeevna

Postgraduate student, Faculty of Sociology, St. Petersburg State University

192102, Russia, Saint Petersburg, 44 Salova str., lit. 1I










Abstract: The article substantiates the necessity and possibility of integrating the environmental and systemic approach in the sociological study of the residential environment. The relevance of such integration is due to the complexity of the object the residential environment requiring the combined efforts of representatives of different professional communities (architects, urban planners, design engineers, sociologists, etc.), on the one hand, and the lack of conceptual foundations (language, general methodological and conceptual framework) for such an association, on the other. The importance of such studies for the subsequent social forecasting of the residential environment and the possibility of their application in connection with changes in the technologies used in the development of project documentation and the transition to the creation of information models is noted. The results of the work: 1) on the basis of a comparative analysis of concepts and studies within the framework of the "environmental" and "systemic approaches," their differences and similarities are revealed; 2) a definition of the residential environment is proposed; 3) on the basis of an analysis of the Russian regulatory framework for housing construction, the features of the modern use of a systematic approach in this area are shown; 4) the domestic tradition is presented a systematic (organismic) approach in the design of the living environment; 5) on the basis of theoretical reconstruction, a conclusion is made about the cognitive possibilities of tectology, in the research and formation of the living environment, the synthesis of existing approaches and the basis of promising interdisciplinary associations. Novelty: the potential of tectology, systems theory and system analysis as a promising methodological approach in the sociological study of the residential area, the synthesis of existing approaches and the unification of theorists and practitioners in its study, design and development is revealed. The results of the work are supposed to be used as a basis for the development of a methodology for a specific sociological study of the residential environment, its subjects and quality criteria.


sociology of the living environment, system, environment, living environment, structure, quality of the living environment, subject, environmental approach, system approach, tectology

This article is automatically translated. You can find original text of the article here.

The domestic sociology of the living environment (dwelling) is in demand both theoretically and practically. The scientific and professional community criticizes the living environment created at the beginning of the XXI century for the insufficient development of the social aspect associated with the ability to meet human needs (in the general sense of the word), which affects the quality of life. The question is raised about the need to determine the quality characteristics of housing, due to the fact that the creation of affordable and high-quality housing is the most important social task of the state [1, 2, 3, 4, 5]. All this creates a request for a sociological study of the living environment from the point of view of human needs and prospects for its development not only as a "resident", but also as a member of society, a person.

The living environment and human existence are mutually dependent [6]. Here we understand the living environment as a local habitat, that is, the territory and space where a person lives. Relative to a person, his living environment begins with a residential cell and is limited to a walking radius (on average 15-20 minutes). A space, including a social one, is being formed on this territory. Society "lives in a certain space, where social life actually takes place" [7], accordingly, the question of the organization of the living environment at the level of territory and space interests sociology not only at the level of fundamental theoretical, but also at the level of applied, practice-oriented research. Let's consider the methodological approaches existing in the national tradition and practice to the creation and research of the residential environment and outline the prospects for the joint development of engineering, technical and social areas.

The formation of project activity in Russia took place at the beginning of the XX century. In the 1920s, the Russian and Soviet architect, leading architectural theorist A.V. Rosenberg (1877-1935) wrote the fundamental works for the formation of design activity: "Philosophy of Architecture" [8], "General theory of design of architectural structures" [9]. In the same years, there was an interest in studying human needs and taking them into account in creating a "second nature". As retrospective studies show, social knowledge, since the 1920s, has been implemented in the creation of an urban environment and housing [10, 11]. The researchers note that the methodology for the development of project documentation proposed by A.V. Rosenberg is based on the ideas of tectology and an organismic approach [12]. However, in the future, if this holistic approach was preserved (which will be discussed below), then the result obtained was unsatisfactory. Gradually, the opposition and opposition of the systemic and environmental approaches was formed, the idea prevailed in the architectural environment that it was the environmental approach that would allow creating an environment for a person. At the end of the 1950s, a program of mass construction of standard housing was launched in the USSR. It was industrial construction according to standard series, the main criteria were "functionality, simplicity and cheapness" of housing. At the same time, a humanist movement was developing abroad, its ideas penetrated the architectural environment and took shape in the form of an environmental approach. In Russian architecture, the environmental approach spread in the 1960s [13]. It still seems to many to be an obvious way to create a "humane environment" for humans [14]. Some key works within the framework of the environmental approach in Russian science have been created [15, 17, 18].However, as of 2023, the environmental approach has not only not been transformed into a methodological one, but also has not defined the concept of "environment" unambiguously [16].

We will not be mistaken if we quote V. T. Shimko's definition: "... the environment is a direct, direct creation of an optimal life reality that exists not "above" or "near", but together with its user" [19]. The most important feature of the environmental approach is indicated here: in the "residential environment, a person dominates" [20], that is, it is necessary not only to take into account a person as a subject when designing the environment, but also to involve him in the process. In the 2000s, the ideas of subjectivity, human activity in relation to the residential environment are known, for example, as "participatory design" (the author of the idea G. Sanoff [21]). In domestic practice, this is the activity-environment approach of V. L. Glazychev [22]. The socio-environmental orientation is also distinguished by the works of T. M. Dridze [23].

Despite the interest in the environmental approach among prominent representatives of the architectural and design environment from the 1960s to the present, it (the approach) has not been fully implemented, has not become dominant in urban formation. The researchers note the lack of a comprehensive theoretical study of the problem, noting that in science "there is only a rare dotted line of works devoted to the subject-spatial environment in its systemic integrity" [15, p. 15].

Simultaneously with the advent of the environmental approach, the system approach was developing. The rapid development of the system approach as a group of scientific disciplines in Russian science occurred in the 1960s and 1970s and affected the urban planning sphere. Thus, G. D. Platonov et al. [31; 1968], A. E. Gutnov [32; 1977], B. R. Rubanenko et al. [33, 1982] and others expressed interest in the theory of systems and system analysis, the possibility, and sometimes the need to apply to a city, district, residential cell. In addition, the founder of the theory of systems L. von Bertalanfi himself said that the city is a system, and that this "system requires a systematic approach" [34]. But, since 1985, the development of these ideas has stopped.

The living environment created in Russia at the beginning of the XXI century can mainly be characterized as exclusively constructivist, mechanistic. Let's use the current "photo document" (Fig. 1., residential development in Kudrovo, Leningrad region). On this fragment we see the following:

high-rise buildings disproportionate to a person;

minimum number of green spaces and absence of large-sized trees;

the organization of the territory planning from a social point of view is violated. Exactly:

- there are no private, semi-private zones; there are only public zones;

- there are no local zones that could act as a territory-space for the formation of social nodes (both homogeneous and heterogeneous environment by age), the only such zone is a playground for children 5-10 years old.

Fig. 1. Example of spatial organization residential complex in Kudrovo, Leningrad region

(Fig. 1. Example of spatial organizationresidential complex in Kudrovo, Leningrad region)


https://novate.ru/blogs/030421/58392/?ysclid=lfzhnpi2yj521086867, accessed 04.04.2023)

The design and construction community associates such a result with a systematic approach to design, leading to the conclusion that a systematic approach does not allow taking into account human interests and leads to mass construction of low-quality facilities, without taking into account individual needs. However, not following a systematic approach leads to such results. Due to its universality, the system approach allows you to solve a variety of tasks, including creating an environment that the environmental approach also sets for itself. The Soviet and Russian researcher of systems theory and system analysis V. N. Volkova draws attention to the main property of systems uniqueness. And if each system is unique, then what is the reason for the unsatisfactory quality of the living environment? The answer lies in the purpose of designing the system.

The methodological approach of design engineers is similar to the system approach. There is a set goal, which for design engineers (the common goal of all participants in the engineering and technical project, uniting them, including architects, urban planners, etc.) is formulated as the development of project documentation in accordance with the regulatory framework. In the future, on the basis of the developed documentation, construction will be carried out. The list of sections of the project documentation being developed is presented in Government Decree No. 87 [24] and is, in the language of system analysis, a structure. Each section of the project documentation looks like a subsystem with a given function. For example, the section "Architectural solution (AR)" and the section "Structural and space-planning solutions" provide a reliable and safe shell of the building, sufficiency of natural light, etc. The section "Information about engineering equipment, about engineering support networks, a list of engineering and technical measures, the content of technological solutions consists of subsections: a) subsection "Power supply system", b) subsection "Water supply system"; c) subsection "Drainage system", etc. is responsible for supplying the building with the necessary energy resources, maintaining certain microclimate parameters, etc.

The development of project documentation is carried out on the basis of the regulatory framework, all the requirements of the regulatory framework must be implemented, the decisions taken should not contradict urban planning standards. Thus, even at the stage of development of project documentation, design engineers (here, generically, that is, including architects) organize the life of a future resident in a building or environment and do it, guided by regulations. What is the purpose of the regulatory framework?

The purpose of the regulatory framework is set out in the Urban Planning Code, which defines the concept of standards, formulates their purpose as "ensuring favorable conditions for human activity and subject to application in the preparation of territorial planning documents, urban zoning, documentation on the planning of the territory" [25, p.9]. Two other federal laws that can be identified as the main ones for the formation of the objectives of the standards are 184-FZ on "Technical Regulation" [26] and 52-FZ "On sanitary and epidemiological welfare of the population" [27]. In Federal Law 184-FZ on "Technical Regulation", the purpose of urban planning standards is reduced to the formulation of requirements for the safety of facilities being created, and 52-FZ "On Sanitary and Epidemiological welfare of the population" defines favorable conditions for human activity as "the state of the habitat in which there is no harmful effect of its factors on humans (harmless conditions) and there are opportunities to restore the disturbed functions of the human body" [27, p.2]. The issue is described in more detail in the work of A. Yu. Ananchenko "Legal and regulatory and technical support of urban development activities" [29].

Thus, this regulatory framework provides grounds for the design and construction of the residential environment presented in Figure 1, and the "narrow" formulation of the objectives of the standards in terms of human needs for safety and the absence of harmful effects of the created environment on a person is an obstacle to social forecasting of the residential environment. Therefore, clarifying the purpose or clarifying (developing) the definitions of those concepts that are used in the above-mentioned documents will allow you to change the result without changing the methodological (systematic) approach.

So, environmental and system approaches are presented in the domestic practice of urban planning, although the environmental approach is more common in the study and study of the object, and the view of the object as a system when creating (designing). To find out the ratio of these approaches, let's compare them by the key parameters for our topic (Table 1).

Table 1. Environmental and system approachesin the study and design of the living environment


Environmental approach

A systematic approach

Time of appearance in the domestic environment

The 1960s

The 1960s

The role and functions of a person

Human subject

Human subject

The purpose of creating an object (buildings, structures, environments, etc.)

Habitat for humans

Favorable living conditions for humans

Precedes the formulation of the purpose of creating an object, who formulates

Humanistic ideas, architectural community

The Constitution of the Russian Federation, state regulation

A rigid link between the goal and the approach



Are there formulated methodological bases for the work


Yes, the system approach (more precisely, system analysis) belongs to the scientific field of knowledge, is an independent discipline

At what stage of the life cycle of a residential environment is the approach applicable

At all

At all

It can be concluded that the environmental and system approaches do not contradict each other.

We believe that it is worth talking not about the contradictions of the two approaches to working on the creation of a residential environment, when even at the stage of development of project documentation, design engineers organize the life of the inhabitants of the environment, but about the possibility of integrating these approaches. Moreover, there are domestic ideological prerequisites for such integration.

A. A. Bogdanov in his work "Tectology" formulates the general structural principles of organization, believing that all human activity is activity, and except for organizational (in the broadest sense) tasks, humanity has no other [29]. He emphasizes that "artistic creativity has harmony and harmony as its principle, which means organization" [29, p. 70], which confirms the possibility of applying tectology in architectural design, urban planning and in creating a residential environment. Moreover, as noted above, Dr. Rozin V. M. discovered the basics of tectology when creating a methodological approach to the development of project documentation by its founder A. Rosenberg, who apparently shared the ideas of tectology and the fact that at the stage of designing a residential environment, we in some sense organize the life of a future resident of this environment. "Taken by themselves, an architectural structure, a statue, a painting, are systems of "dead" elements stone, metal, canvas, paints; but the vital meaning of these works lies in those complexes of images and emotions that unite around them in the human psyche. We see that human activity from the simplest to the most complex forms is reduced to organizing processes" [29, p. 70]. The thesis we gave at the beginning of the article that the living environment and being mutually determine each other is consonant with this idea. A. A. Bogdanov's tectology is a scientific direction and is currently used as the basis of the theory of organization (in the broad sense of the word).

Thus, the very idea of creating a regulatory framework as part of a methodological approach was based on organizational principles of an organizational nature, in other words, the creation of an environment during the development of project documentation during the project activities of design engineers was originally envisaged.

As the analysis above showed, today in the normative urban planning framework, human needs are reduced to the need for safety (when in a building) and the creation of harmless conditions. Are the needs of modern man limited only to this?

If we turn to the theory of systems and system analysis, then new prospects for the study and development of the living environment as a system will become obvious, primarily from a sociological standpoint and research on the question of what properties the living environment should have for the organization of human life in it. Thus, the system "living environment and subject/s" belongs to the class of open complex systems with an active element [36, p. 266]. This conclusion opens up new sociological perspectives, presenting the "activity" of the subject as a source of non-egentropic tendencies, his tendency to self-organization.

In addition, the sociological significance is also manifested in the new characteristic properties of this class of systems, such as: the ability to resist entropic tendencies, to be in a mobile state, to maintain the fundamental disequilibrium of E. Bauer, to have the ability and desire for goal formation, etc. All these properties require extensive research and study, and such work has already been started by the author of the article.

Since the creation of the methodology for the development of project documentation by A. V. Rosenberg, there have been practically no changes in it, and it is still being implemented by design engineers. This allows us to conclude that the organization of the environment in the understanding of the environmental approach is possible by following the already accepted, existing methodological approach. The system analysis developed over the years (applied systems theory) has today methodological foundations both for the cognition of the system and for the design of new systems (buildings, objects, structures, building complexes and the environment as a whole) with new specified qualities and properties when clarifying goal-setting, which in our opinion should be clarified and developed based on sociological forecasting of the residential environment. And the integrating function of the system approach as synthesizing knowledge contributes to the joint work of specialists from different fields of knowledge (not only architects, engineers, but also sociologists, psychologists, etc.), in other words, the system approach supports and provides the basis for the convergence of knowledge.

In our opinion, it should be noted that despite the preservation of the methodological approach to the development of project documentation, the technology used has changed, which will also contribute to the joint work of engineers and sociologists. Instead of two-dimensional design, digital information models of buildings and structures are being developed, which in turn represent information systems. Currently, the projected object is constructed from elements and all participants in the process (all the same design engineers, but who have mastered the new technology) work together in the same information environment [37]. The integrity of the created system (information model) of a building or object (in general, at the level of the territory) is a stage of territorial development. In order to have a "real" environment, residents are needed, an active element is needed this is the next stage of the life cycle of the residential environment, when it is designed, built and put into operation, or, in other words, people begin to settle in. At this second stage, the development of the environment begins, its true origin. But in order for the environment and the person in it to develop, even at the stage of designing (creating) the living environment as a system of elements of physical nature, those properties of the living environment that will contribute to its development and human development in it, or at least not hinder it, must be identified and determined. Identification of such properties for different stages of the life cycle of the "living environment and subject" system is an urgent task.

The integrating role of the system approach in the development of an information model of an object (on the basis of which project documentation is drawn up) becomes obvious, since now participants can see in real time what is happening with architects, engineers, etc. (engineers of related specialties, in the language of project activity). At the same time, the structure of the sections of the developed documentation, requirements, and so on. remained unchanged. Only the way of creating project documentation (technology) and the form of presentation (three-dimensional model) have changed, the project documentation itself is formed from an information model.

For sociology, this means that, firstly, a sociologist can be a participant in the project process when creating an information model (he does not need either knowledge of technology or knowledge of the regulatory framework, since the information system-model - is visual); secondly, a sociologist can investigate what properties a residential environment should have (elements residential environment, its components, structures) to realize the purpose of the system and participate in the process of designing such properties of the system "residential environment and subject/s".

Thus, a systematic approach allows you to move to a new stage of the study of the living environment and design a system based on the set goals. Its functions and capabilities are becoming obvious, which were formulated by science, but have not been realized until now (rather, they have not received proper dissemination), and now, due to the development of a unified information environment, the system approach can receive a new round of development, as it received in the 1960s and 1970s with the development of systems automation of control and hardware complexes.

The system approach is familiar to most design engineers, which is its advantage over the environmental approach, which is mainly common among architects and designers. The environmental approach initially required "the participation of a special kind of professional architect, resembling a zemstvo or district doctor working in a certain territory and in the interests of a circle of people familiar to him", "his view of the world had to be the view not only of an artist, but of a sociologist, cultural critic, attentive analyst and researcher, passionate about the device, morphology, physics environment and people living in this world." [38].

All this suggests that sociology can and should be integrated into the process of creating a residential environment, and then the urban environment, through the study and formation of new properties of the residential environment and interaction with design engineers who follow the regulatory framework, but do not always "know" human needs. This will allow not only to take into account the needs of a person in the created environment, but also to bring together both sociologists and the design and construction environment.

There is a request for active sociological participation in the formation of the living environment. However, in the first quarter of the XXI century, there is still no holistic domestic sociology of housing/living environment that could collect, analyze and transmit data on human needs to the applied sphere [43]. There is also no full-fledged dialogue between "engineers" and "sociologists". Due to the absence of such a dialogue, communication between sociologists and architects has not been established, although the latter should "know" a person better than anyone, due to their direct orientation towards him. Here is what Professor of architecture K. V. Kiyanenko writes about this: "There is a lot of evidence that the architect and sociologist interpret the same concepts differently. For example, from the point of view of a number of architects, lifestyle determines the needs and requirements of the family for housing [272, p.218; 203, p.47]. And from the point of view of some sociologists on the contrary" [44].

Let's formulate the main conclusions of the work: The living environment and the subject/s are an open complex system with active elements.

There is a significant and productive domestic experience of "organizational", environmental and systemic approaches to the formation of a residential environment.

The opposition of environmental and systemic approaches is unproductive. On the contrary, tectology, systems theory, system analysis allows us to see the active element in the living environment and its other constitutive properties. The "integrated" approach based on tectology allows specialists from different fields to speak the same language.

An integrative approach will allow combining the efforts of specialists from different fields.

Analysis of the regulatory framework of urban development shows insufficient elaboration of the target parameters of the residential environment.

The targeted nature of the "residential environment" system implies active research work, i.e. the integration of sociology into the formation and functioning of the residential environment is necessary.

These conclusions allow us to conclude that the answer to the question posed in the title of the article is as follows: neither environmental nor systemic separately, but an integrated approach, and with the active participation of sociology, is adequate for the study, design and creation of a residential environment.

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First Peer Review

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The subject of the study. The materials submitted for review, based on the title, should be devoted to building a residential environment of the future using environmental and (or) systemic approaches. The content of the article mostly reveals this issue very superficially, without affecting the assessment of negative and positive trends in the organization of the living environment in the Russian Federation. The research methodology is based on the use of methods of systematization, analysis and synthesis of data. The author created 2 graphic objects in the test: a drawing and a table. At the same time, if the table is formed based on a comparison of two approaches, then the figure represents photographs of a residential complex in St. Petersburg. The author is also recommended to add drawings showing the composition/ structure of the phenomenon/process, as well as their dynamic development using numerical data. The relevance of the research on the development of the residential environment is beyond doubt, as it meets the priorities of the socioeconomic development of the Russian Federation, including those associated with the national development goals of the Russian Federation for the period up to 2030. It seems that qualitative identification of existing problems and their subsequent solution will ensure dynamic economic growth on an inclusive basis, taking into account the strategic interests of Russians. The scientific novelty is partially contained in the presented materials. In particular, the author's table, which reveals the parameters of environmental and systemic approaches in the study and design of the residential environment, is of interest. At the same time, it is recommended to finalize it taking into account the definition of specific possibilities for practical use in Russian practice of the approaches under consideration (both individually and synthesis of approaches). Style, structure, content. The style of presentation is scientific (there are no colloquial and journalistic expressions), but individual phrases require correction in terms of word coordination (for example, the name of the fourth indicator in the table "Precedes the formulation of the purpose of creating an object, who formulates"). The structure of the article by the author is not separated by separate subheadings, it is not fully structured in content, since there are no blocks aimed at identifying existing problems and author's recommendations for their solution. For this reason, the content of the article does not even aim at substantiating problem areas and developing proposals for their elimination, but is mainly devoted to systematizing accumulated experience in terms of studying approaches to organizing the living environment. Bibliography. The author has compiled a wide bibliographic list. However, it contains only a few scientific publications in 2021-2022, despite the active attention of the scientific and practical community to the problems under consideration. The author is also recommended to study foreign scientific publications. Appeal to opponents. It is valuable that the author refers to the scientific works of other authors according to the text of the article. It is recommended to make similar references when discussing specific results obtained in terms of identifying existing problems and forming recommendations for their solution. Conclusions, the interest of the readership. Taking into account all the above, it should be noted the high level of relevance of the issues under consideration, however, in order to recommend the article for publication, its content should be finalized on issues of interest to the scientific, practical and expert community in order to ensure the interests of all economic entities operating in the territory of the Russian Federation.

Second Peer Review

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The list of publisher reviewers can be found here.

In the peerreviewed article "The residential environment of the future: an environmental or a systemic approach?" the subject of the study is a discussion of conceptual approaches to the study and design of the residential environment. The purpose of the research is in the work itself and is not specified. The research methodology is based on an environmental and systematic approach to the creation and research of a residential environment. The research methods are the traditional analysis of scientific literature and comparative analysis of two approaches. At the same time, the author is critical of the implementation of the environmental approach in practice, despite its humanistic message, and he also believes that despite the fact that the approach of design engineers is similar to a systematic approach, it is not such in fact. Therefore, there is a need for their integration, which will give new prospects for the study and development of the living environment as a system, primarily from a sociological point of view and research on what properties the living environment should have for the organization of human life in it. The relevance of the topic of the work is due to the need to research and improve the interaction of humans and the living environment as an important prerequisite for ensuring high quality and comfort of living. The interaction of humans and the living environment attracts researchers of various profiles: ecologists, urbanists, sociologists. One of the significant aspects is social, which complements other aspects in the process and as a result of the formation of a systematic understanding of human interaction and the living environment. The question of the organization of the living environment is of interest to sociology not only at the level of fundamental theoretical, but also at the level of applied, practice-oriented research. As a scientific novelty, first of all, the general conclusion deserves attention that neither environmental nor systemic separately, but an integrated approach, with the active participation of sociology, is adequate for research, design and creation of a residential environment. This allows us to outline the prospects for the joint development of engineering, technical and social areas. This study is characterized by general consistency and literacy of presentation. The article has a good level of scientific conceptualization. It will be of interest to specialists in the field of urban studies, although it should be noted that the role of sociology in the new integrated approach has not been fully disclosed (but this was not the main substantive point of the work). The bibliography of the work includes a total of 44 publications, mostly in Russian. Thus, there is sufficient appeal to the main opponents from the field under consideration. It should be noted that the author does not adhere to the recommended standards for the design of literature. There are also incorrect links (See link [272, p.218; 203, p.47]). Thus, the article "The living environment of the future: environmental or systemic approach?" has scientific and theoretical significance. The work can be published after putting the list of references in order.
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