Urban open space in the 21st century

Ward-Thompson, C., 2000, Urban open space in the 21st century, in: ECLAS (Aničić, B.), ‘Landscape of the future: the future of landscape architecture education’, Department of Landscape Architecture, Zagreb

  • Author : Ward-Thompson, C.
  • Year : 2000
  • Published in Book : Landscape of the future: the future of landscape architecture education
  • Pages : 47-57
  • Abstract in English : What should be demanded from urban open space in the 21st century? What are the social and spatial implications of new lifestyles, value systems, attitudes to nature and sustainability, and what models for future city life will accommodate these? How different are the patterns of urban open space likely to be from what has gone before? Do historic parks and open space patterns offer the right framework, the right extent and complexity for modern and future needs, or should we be planning for completely new structures of open space provision? These are some of the questions this paper will address, drawing on examples from Britain and North America. New lifestyles and attitudes in the West have tended to emphasise the individual over the group and to value diversity, both personal and cultural. One vital role that urban parks can play is to provide space for the expression of that diversity. Public open space will continue to be the place (and, perhaps increasingly, one of the few places) where the democratic process is worked out, literally, on the ground, and what this democracy means in practice must be fully explored. There is evidence that the electronic revolution has altered patterns of social behaviour and will continue to influence the geography of settlement and workplace. It has been suggested that the urbanity of public open space is threatened by the increase in ‘virtual’ transactions, carried out electronically from the home and obviating the need for real, social interaction. But there is also evidence that use of new communications technology can increase and enhance use of public open space and there are opportunities to be explored in this context. The social and cultural values of open space include attitudes towards nature and the desire for contact with it, which is a fundamental part of human biology. The modern landscape produces food and resources, it provides the substrate and context for our urban habits and constructions, yet we now rarely participate in this productive aspect of our landscape except on a domestic scale. Instead, for most urban dwellers, the perceptual and cultural landscape is seen as a recreational resource of some kind. What does this mean for current models of high density urban development and what are the implications for access to ‘nature’? The paper will consider the role of natural systems within these models and how we can make better use of contemporary understandings of ecology to manage open space within the city for diverse human needs.