Spaces worth caring for

December 13, 2018


Public green spaces can be the driver of a sense of place for a neighbourhood’s community. I believe that parks can increase a feeling of belonging, an attachment to an area or even a city because they are improving people’s quality of life. And strong sense of place leads to care for one’s city and a certain resistance to change and to globalised design which would for example cause every park to be designed based on the same model all over the world with no regards to context. Indeed I think that parks designed without care for a specific context are not embedded in the urban fabric and don’t perform well environmentally and socially. With care for a city comes a sense of rootedness and emotional attachment.

One might argue that care for a place begins with knowledge. That by knowing more about a place, its history, its different facets, could elicit a certain attachment. Hyde park’s visitors have been protesting against the lack of information about the Royal Parks. As the majority of people know very little to nothing at all about the park they are wishing for more signs, maps, information boards in the park, as well as access to more online information via the Royal Parks’ website or social medias. (Ipsos MORI 2015) But even though people don’t know much about Hyde park, they still very much enjoy it. Visitors particularly like its spatial qualities: quite shady corners, wide open spaces et formal avenues creating a grand spaciousness, as well as its freedom of access, and the significant public and popular events occurring occasionally in the park. All of this participates to the national perception as being a “people’s park”. (Ipsos MORI 2015) Marcia Mueller Eaton argues that knowledge is not enough. She writes that knowledge will only affect people’s preferences if they have “appropriate values and care”. (2006) I agree that personal moral values shape our opinion of a place and drive us to act, to improve it, to maintain it. I believe that knowledge, moral value and sensitive experience of a place are linked and one needs all three to make a space better. Maria Penig de la Bellacage affirms that “thinking the world involves acknowledging our own involvement in perpetuating dominant values, rather than retracting into the secure position of an enlightened outsider who knows better.” (2012) The association of knowledge and moral values as lead to the protection of the park. Indeed historical significance and environmental worth have enabled Hyde park to become a “site of metropolitan importance” as it is the support for a number of protected buildings and structures and particular attention is given to its wild life and biodiversity. (Land use consultants 2006)

One can say that Hyde park has become a pocket of protected nature within the city. It is part of people’s every day life and, because of its easy access, it is welcoming diverse communities. Londoners as well as travellers from all other the world have developed an attachment to the park as it allows for a free open space at the heart of the city. The park is large, long established and anchored in the city. As it has evolved through the layers of history, it is multi-faceted in terms of what it offers to its visitors. People appreciate it for its historic landscapes, aesthetics, natural values, recreational and social opportunities as well as its support for spirituality and well-being. Hyde park is in my opinion a green infrastructure who succeeded in being an inclusive and meaningful support for public life.

Marie Le Rouzic


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