Have gardens become a privilege?
Whether it’s a small balcony, access to green space or a private garden, the outdoors has become a privilege for many, especially with the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic and the multiple lockdowns that have followed. Urban green spaces are under constant threat as governments attempt to increase housing densities to meet a growing demand for suburban development. As a result, gardening and access to green/outdoor space has recently declined as priorities are accommodating as many people as possible, often at the expense of beneficial features such as e.g. B. Access to outdoor areas in housing estates.
In terms of living conditions, the lack of access to these spaces reveals obvious inequalities revealed during periods of lockdown and restrictions during the pandemic. People were confined to their homes and local outdoor areas where they could exercise. Those who had access to these public spaces and had their own garden/outdoor space were very fortunate in the sense that they were able to enjoy an element of the outside world. While those less fortunate in dwellings and areas of depravity faced claustrophobic and demoralizing conditions locked within the shell of their homes.
Access to quality green spaces has become an essential part for city dwellers. A report by Vivid Economics and Barton Willmore showed that almost two-thirds of the UK population value local green spaces more because of Covid-19 and would like them to be a higher priority for government.
What is design justice?
Income is predominantly tied to accessibility to green/outdoor space, with 1 in 8 UK households not having a garden. Employees in semi-skilled and unskilled trades, the unemployed and casual workers are three times as likely to be without a garden as employees in administrative, managerial and specialist occupations. (Comparatively 20% to 7%). According to Natural England survey data, ethnic minorities are almost four times as likely to lack access to outdoor spaces at home (including having a private/shared garden, patio or balcony). A staggering 37% versus 10%. This underscores the disproportionate access to private outdoor spaces within the community.
Green spaces in low-income neighborhoods are generally more difficult to access, according to a study by Lorien Nesbitt, an assistant professor at the University of British Columbia. It is much easier to find some form of garden, balcony, roof and even micro parks and trees in more affluent areas as these require both investment and maintenance. Public green spaces are often funded by city budgets and city councils, meaning investment and quality will vary based on how different areas prioritize those budgets.
The privilege of the garden/private outdoor space is evident when observing the negative effects of prolonged confinement inside. It has numerous side effects, including mental and physical health problems, such as: B. reduced brain function, depression and a weakened immune system.
As Anna Wirz-Justice, winner of the Daylight Prize 2022, points out, daylight is essential for health and this exposure to light synchronizes the circadian time system. Without this daily synchronization, consequences such as irritability, mood swings and lack of concentration can occur. In the long term, there is an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, mental illness and obesity. Restricted access to these spaces increases these risks as exposure to daylight is limited.
These residences, which include outdoor/green spaces, have beneficial effects on physiology including improved longevity and concentration. The essence of “biophilia,” which arises from our instinctive need as humans to be close to the natural world, is critical, and when we sever that bond through the built environment, it can trigger stress and the connection between the individual and interrupt the natural world.
To overcome this inequality, access to these spaces should be prioritized both as a method of greening our cities and improving overall mental and physical well-being. Targeting disadvantaged communities and those from low socio-economic backgrounds to restore the garden/private outdoor area as a vital convenience for all rather than a privilege for the fortunate. It is important to note that greening solutions are not necessarily straightforward, as the benefits of green spaces are influenced by local context, social disadvantage, culture and resident demographics. To maximize impact, green spaces in socially deprived areas can be most beneficial with community input.
The idea of urban greening in our cities has become a crossword puzzle, ignoring the extensive benefits that outdoor space offers residents. However, as our cities become more populated, innovative new ways of incorporating green elements have emerged, including popularizing vertical gardens, greening our facades and offering numerous physical and mental health benefits. Introducing elements of biophilic design can also blur the lines between differences. The inclusion of houseplants and maximizing natural light offer subtle ways to provide access to the benefits embraced by the natural world. Unlike the traditional private garden, these can offer a solution to reduce garden privilege, among other innovative new concepts.
This article is part of ArchDaily Topics: Democratization of Design. Each month we delve deeply into a topic through articles, interviews, news and projects. Learn more about our ArchDaily topics. As always, we at ArchDaily welcome contributions from our readers; If you have an article or project you would like to submit, contact us.