Urban Open Spaces

Urban Open Spaces

Urban Open Spaces

Urban Open Spaces


There is enormous interest in urban design and the regeneration of our urban areas, but current thinking often concentrates on the built form, forgetting the important role that open spaces play. "Urban Open Spaces brings together extensive research and practical experience to prove the opportunities and benefits of different types of open space to society and individuals. This is the first book to bring together a variety of evidence from different disciplines to outline the benefits and opportunities of urban open spaces in an practitioners, this book will be of value for anyone interested in the design, development, regeneration, funding and use of open spaces in urban areas.


At the beginning of the twenty-first century, urban theory and policy throughout the world is returning to the issue of public space. The widespread flight from traditional urban centres in the developed world, whether to the suburbs or to new greenfield settlements, along with a rising fear of urban street crime, has alerted politicians of all political shades to the cultural importance which good quality public environments play in restoring popular confidence in urban living.

In the UK there have been a number of report and parliamentary select committees looking into the role which parks and green spaces can play in urban regeneration, culminating in the Urban Green Spaces Taskforce report, Green Spaces, Better Places (May 2002), which laid out a set of policies and recommendations to government to bring Britain's parks and public spaces back into good repair and improved future management Helen Woolley was one of the key academics commissioned to undertake the research for this government enquiry, and her work and that of her colleagues played a large part in convincing government of the vital role played by public space in so many people's lives.

In this book Helen Woolley provides detailed evidence for her claim that urban open spaces play a vital role in creating healthier; more sociable communities, and extends her vision to include many of the rather more marginal places which provide so much meaning in local life-the small play areas, allotments and city farms which architects and landscape architects too frequently ignore in their preoccupation with more prestigious city centre spaces. The case studies which form the concluding section of this book reveal a range of recent landscape design initiatives which show that the art of place-making is slowly being rediscovered again in city planning. This is most notable, perhaps, in the astonishing success of Birmingham's Victoria Square and the adjacent improvements, which has signalled a dramatic change in the fortunes of the city centre and its perception by outsiders.

The author also brings to the subject a strong focus on the 'people benefits' of public investment in good quality urban design, in terms of better public morale, as well as some of the specific benefits which particular kinds of landscapes and gardens can bring to those recovering from illness or forms of mental distress-reminding us that our physical environment is as important a determinant of our mental well-being as our physical health. Finally she insists that ecologocal arguments are likely to play an even more important role in urban investment for our future, as it becomes clear that trees, plants, green corridors, pocket parks and urban natural settings can create much healthier micro-climates in the city, humanising it and reclaiming it for the walker and the child at play, as much as for the motorist or shopper.

Helen Woolley's work as a teacher, researcher and practising landscape architect has been quietly influential in recent urban thinking about public spaces and places, and this book is likely to consolidate that influence. It is very welcome.

Ken Worpole

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