This PhD project concerned the role of simple design features for increasing (or maintaining) the attractiveness of vegetation-covered urban wasteland areas for recreational purposes.
Re-using vegetation-covered urban wasteland areas for recreation purposes in ways that do not substantially interfere with flora and fauna seems economically and ecologically attractive. This project researched the role of simple design features for increasing (or maintaining) the attractiveness of these areas.
To that end visual features were identified which are relevant to the human perception of (and preferences for) urban green spaces and urban wasteland areas. A number of features were found that were known from previous studies of rural nature (e. g. degree of canopy closure, artificiality, prospect, and beauty). Additionally, the feature ‘accessibility’ was identified, which appears to be relevant for urban wasteland areas in particular.
In a next step, a taxonomy of urban green space usages was compiled and empirically validated. The actual usage behaviour was also assessed, revealing passive recreation (e. g. going for a walk, enjoying nature) as the most important way urban green spaces are used. Other important usages comprise extrinsically motivated activities, social activities, and sporting activities (in descending order).
A further set of experiments showed that simple measures in redesigning vegetation-covered urban wasteland areas can – by increasing the degree to which they fulfil important psychological needs – increase the preference for a certain area. No global differences in preference existed between the examined green space and wasteland areas. While the tested design measures showed no or little effect on green space preference they did increase preference for the presented wasteland areas.
In conclusion, a few psychological requirements for wasteland re-utilization for recreation purposes can be devised: it seems beneficial to provide accessibility, emphasize the site’s recreational purpose, allow for versatile usages, provide means to enhance understanding of a site, and convey a feeling of safety to the users.
Dresdner Universitätsjournal: Wie wirkt »urbane Wildnis« auf die Menschen (21 January 2014, in German)
This research was conducted for my PhD at the Cognitive psychology research group of the Humboldt University Berlin. It was funded via a PhD scholarship by the DFG.
Mathias Hofmann (2011). Urbane Wildnis aus Sicht der Nutzer. Wahrnehmung und Bewertung vegetationsbestandener städtischer Brachflächen. Dissertation. Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin. DOI: 10/gdxrrp. Full text (in German) available at: edoc.hu-berlin.de