Imagine a world where city parks are more than just patches of green. Dream of a city where every green space can transform our urban lives through health and ecological benefits.
Green spaces provide us with numerous benefits for physical and mental health, the climate and local plants and animal species. Their role in guaranteeing healthy, sustainable, and happy lives in cities is increasing, especially with new challenges arising because of climate change. Temperatures are rising, increasing urban heat island effects. And extreme weather patterns, such as droughts and floods, are occurring more frequently. Green spaces can provide the solutions to many issues that cities are faced with. However, green spaces are often not designed to realise all these potential benefits.
In our VC journey we, Charlotte, Jannik, Esmée, and Lena, explored how green spaces impact human and environmental well-being: How do green spaces have to be designed to enable them to deliver those benefits? And where is change needed?
With this blog post, we want to walk you through our value creator’s journey and share our findings.
We started the semester, connected through our shared passion for nature, green spaces, sustainable mobility, and urban design. We were all wondering how green spaces benefit us humans and the environment, why does green make us happy, and how can green spaces be better integrated into our cities.
We began to research the topic very broadly by exploring the interconnections between green spaces, sustainable mobility, and human and environmental well-being. After discovering the potential benefits that green spaces could provide, we focused on identifying barriers for holistic green space development. We read academic articles, books, and spoke with many experts working in the field of urban design and green space development. These conversations were with experts from diverse backgrounds such as from the municipality, province Overijssel, ROVA, De Groene Stad, and landscape architects and ecologists, that are all connected to green space development.
We learned that there were several barriers to realise green spaces’ multi-benefits: firstly, there is a lack of shared understanding of green space's multi-benefits among stakeholders. Secondly, existing knowledge is often not applied, also because green spaces are often not seen as assets but as costs. This was deeply connected to underlying societal mental models such as anthropocentric perspectives or the prioritisation of individual over collective interests.
What is urgently needed is a holistic approach to allow for the design of multi-beneficial green spaces. This requires a collaborative exchange of perspectives among stakeholders involved in urban and green space development, each bringing specific expertise in fields like ecology, maintenance, and urban planning.
We decided that we wanted to contribute to enhancing perspective exchange between stakeholders and create more awareness around the many benefits of green spaces. Therefore, we organised an event called a walk-and-talk session. The first activity of the event was a walk-through Zwolle in pairs during which stakeholders could exchange personal perspectives on green spaces based on observations of their surroundings. Afterwards, we met inside, and everyone shared and discussed their findings from the walk. We continued with a design session, where stakeholders were asked to redesign a space which they saw on the walk by envisioning what it would ideally look like in ten years.
The event revealed that there is much potential for more green in Zwolle and the participants concluded that the green spaces should fulfil at least three different functions, for example enhancing biodiversity, recreation for residence, and water management. The event also highlighted the importance of exchanging perspectives and expertise to receive a different view on green space development. Overall, it is important to advocate for collaborative approaches to design multi-beneficial green spaces because they positively impact human and environmental well-being.
We found the event incredibly educational and enjoyable. The valuable conversations and fun interactions among the participants made the day a real success for us!
Fortunately, the results of our event will be shared with an even larger audience. The organisation Stadswerk offered us the exciting opportunity to write an article about our event and its results. This article will be soon published in the magazine – feel free to read it!
If you want to know more or plan to organise a similar event or are interested in our journey, you are welcome to contact us on LinkedIn.
Jannik Düpjohann, Charlotte Spreen, Esmee Martens and Lena Donkers