Planning Practices of Greening Challenges for Public Urban Green Space

University dissertation from Stockholm : KTH Royal Institute of Technology

Abstract: Public urban green spaces are crucial parts of cities due to the many connections existing between urban greenery and well-being. Additionally, public urban green space represents a wide range of spatial concepts, such as parks, urban forests, commons, in-between-spaces, and gardens. This study explores challenges for contemporary public urban green space in an increasingly urban world, with high demands on urban growth, and simultaneously the need for more sustainable societies and cities. The aim is to problematize the complex reality for contemporary public urban green space from an urban planning perspective in times of urban densification strategies, global competitiveness between cities and trends of ‘re-naturing’. The scope of this thesis is based on four high profile case studies. The Green Walkable City in Stockholm and The Green Living Spaces in Birmingham constitute planning strategies with a holistic approach to urban green space, including a strong focus on well-being. The High Line in New York and Parklets in San Francisco represent urban green space concepts, influential both at the local level and in the larger urban planning debate. The results point to a need to acknowledge the complexity inherent to urban green space provision, design, and management. This study contributes with insights of direct connections between narratives of nature, materialized urban greenery projects and conceptualizations of functionality of nature in urban planning projects. From the post-industrial, pristine flirting, crafted wilderness of the High Line; a symbolic but cosmetic scrambling with planters and narratives of parks of parklets; dualistic argumentations of natural values connected to quality over quantity of nature in a densifying and growing Stockholm; to pragmatic yet emotional and ambitious conceptualizations of human nature in biohilic urbanism and green space planning in Birmingham. Gentrification, publicness and production of public space and densification strategies are central themes in urban studies – and public urban green space can play an active role in these processes.

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