Investing in Open Space; Creating Livable Cities
- June 3, 2020
- Environment, Landscape Design, Real Estate, Sustainable Development, Urban Design
- 0 comment
Open space refers to a social place that is left open and accessible for the public. It can be of different nature and scale and include: parks, playgrounds, squares and gardens, used for walking, hiking, running, and other sports and recreational activities.
Open spaces are important assets for cities as they provide many opportunities for people to meet and engage with the community. Successful public spaces are inclusive and create social spaces for everyone in the society to participate in. Areas providing green spaces have an environmental and ecological impact, as they improve the urban climate and reduce environmental damages. Also, public spaces help residents adopt and adjust to a healthy lifestyle.
So, what are the factors that contribute to successful open spaces and what are the benefits that these spaces provide to the society?
Factors Contributing to Successful Open Spaces
There are four main factors to consider when planning open spaces that contribute to their success.
1- Accessibility: A successful open space has good visual and physical connections that make it accessible to the public. Successful open spaces are easy to get to and easy to get through, meaning that it is visible both from a distance and up close. Accessibility also includes disability access and how welcoming the space is.
2- Comfort: Successful open spaces provide enough places that are conveniently located for people to sit. Ensuring safety, cleanliness, and good maintenance are key elements to the success of the place. Providing protection from unpleasant weather conditions is also an important step towards achieving comfort in an open space. For example, although maximizing exposure to sunlight is a necessary step, providing good shelter for windy, rainy or hot days should also be considered. Noise is also another feature with significant impacts on the comfort of spaces, so adding white noise, such as water, can help tone it down.
3- Sociability: When seeking entertainment, people tend to go with their friends, meet and greet their neighbors, and interact with strangers. This interaction tends to make them feel a stronger sense of place and creates a bigger bond and attachment to the community they live in. Some of the factors to consider when thinking of sociability are whether people choose this particular place to meet and whether those who are present in this public space are well acquainted and know each other and use the place regularly by choice.
4- Activities: Activities are the main reason why people repeatedly visit the place. They are also what gives a space its uniqueness. The more activities are planned, the more people return and a connection between the space and the people is created, forming a sense of place and togetherness. Having social events in open spaces, such as hosting concerts and movies is key to achieve success.
1- Social benefits: Open spaces provide safe outdoor areas that are available for all ages of the population. They also provide greater social cohesion and relations because they are meeting points for the residents where they can socialize. They help enhance social and communications skills through opportunities of social interaction, reducing social isolation, generating social capital and leading to greater personal resilience.
2- Economic benefits: Investing in open spaces can contribute to a region’s economic stability, as it increases property value and the desirability of cities and towns. In addition, open spaces contribute to urban regeneration and attract visitors and tourism while encouraging employment and investments.
3- Recreational benefits: Open spaces provide easily accessible recreation areas as an alternative to other more chargeable and costly leisure activities. They can, in fact, offer a wide range of leisure opportunities from informal to formal events, providing an area for children to come in contact with the natural world and connect with nature. Open spaces represent play opportunities for children, which is considered a vital and crucial factor in their development. Also, whenever attractive and accessible open spaces are available, people tend to engage more in physical activity. Time spent in open spaces offers an escape for people, increasing positive attitudes and lowering stress levels and risks of depression.
4- Environmental benefits: Investing in open spaces positively impacts the environment. It helps reduce dependence on cars – as people won’t have to commute to access parks and green open areas – and provides a habitat for wildlife and natural species, promoting biodiversity in the region. Open spaces also improve air quality and reduce noise, where greenery and vegetation serve as buffers for noise, sight, and air pollution.
5- Health benefits: Open spaces are important to human beings. They have a positive impact on their physical and mental health, as they help reduce stress, increase happiness and brain activity, and improve general mood and attitudes. Also, the risk of mortality caused by cardiovascular disease is lower in areas that have higher levels of green and open spaces, especially because people walk more and increase their physical activity when surrounded by green spaces.
As more and more open spaces are being considered and included in development projects, planners and designers have to take into consideration the importance of increasing the number of open spaces, especially in the time of coronavirus. Covid-19, which is still spreading and affecting the whole world today, is imposing new rules on the population, forcing people to keep a safe distance between each other. Open spaces have always been an asset to cities and today even more in the occurring pandemic situation. Clearly, open spaces are currently the main destination of choice for most people, as they offer an escape for residents, who have been placed on complete lockdown ever since the virus started spreading, thus providing them with a way to exercise, have fun, and maintain their mental health, all while keeping a safe distance from other people.