Given the chance where would you spend a lovely summer’s day?

It is likely you’d head somewhere outdoors, maybe to a nearby park, or if you’re lucky enough to live near the coast or a forest, you might end up there. In a survey by CABE (Commission for Architecture and Built Environment) 91% of the people asked, believed that parks and other green spaces improve their quality of life (CABE, 2004). If you live in a city such as London you might end up in Hyde Park, where you’ll find a patch of free grass amongst other like minded people. Now, imagine if you took out all those people, your interaction with the space would completely change. Sitting in the centre of a big lawn becomes less appealing, and you’re more likely to stick to the edge. Social factors can effect the way in which we engage spaces.

There is quite a bit of evidence to suggest that green spaces can actually make us more social… more statistics…83% more people engaged in social activity in green space compared to concrete spaces (Sullivan et al, 2004). Perhaps, because we innately feel safer in areas that are well planted, we also feel more comfortable socialising, ‘Community spirit or ‘sense of community; is a form of place attachment that begins when people share with others a physical space or environment’ (Kopec, 2006). We can gather many opportunities from this, on a societal level, with more social spaces in cities, comes an increase in a greater chance of mixing with people from different social groups who might not normally interact. Public green spaces help to address inequality, especially within children, enhancing play and learning. 

The media reports regularly on increased societal concerns and segregation in communities, focusing especially on cross-cultural conflict and economic inequality. If more accessible green space is provided for people all across cities, it may be that many of these issues could be reduced.

These days our social realm is vast, thanks to mobile technology, however this does not negate our need for decent social spaces for face to face interaction. Natural England published an Accessible Green Space standard, which sets out a recommendation for the maximum distance a person should have to walk to access a public green space. However in many cities this has not been achieved. Coffee chains such as Starbucks and Costa are particularly good at addressing our need to be social within a city, providing spaces to enjoy, and most important for them, enjoy a cup of coffee or two. Unfortunately, what cities are lacking are public places which are free to use, and contain green space, which could do much in the way of social cohesion.