Are urban green spaces optimally distributed to act as places for social integration? Results of a...
- Topic: Greenspace
Geneva shows a socially balanced distribution of green areas. Comparing the situation of Geneva with that in the other two cities, it is evident that Geneva has the best opportunity to make the most of the social integrative potential of its available green spaces.
Germann-Chiari, C., & Seeland, K. (2004). Are urban green spaces optimally distributed to act as places for social integration? Results of a geographical information system (GIS) approach for urban forestry research. Forest Policy and Economics, 6(1), 3-13.
The objective of this ongoing research is to analyse the social potential of urban green spaces to create opportunities to integrate youths, elderly people, foreigners, unemployed and other social groups into the urban life of large Swiss agglomerations. Urban green-space data are linked with social demographic data for these particular social groups.
Three large cities in the different language regions of Switzerland have been selected for a comparative study: Geneva (French-speaking), Lugano (Italian-speaking) and Zürich (German-speaking). The green-space data derived from vector, the digital landscape model in a vector format of the Swiss Federal Office of Topography, and the social demographic data from the 1990 Swiss census are compiled for further processing with the geographical information systems ARCINFO and ARCVIEW. In this way, a contribution to the development of a GIS-based research methodology is made. The goal of this approach is to obtain a highly aggregated planning tool for urban forestry and green-space development.
METHODOLOGY and theoretical approach:
With the GIS analysis, the question to be answered is whether urban green spaces are optimally distributed to act as places for social integration. Urban green-space data are linked with social demographic data for particular social sections of the society, which are to be integrated in public urban life. The green-space data derived from vector, the digital landscape model of the Swiss Federal Office of Topography (http:yywww.swisstopo.chyenydigitalyVECTOR25yvec25.htm), and the social demographic data from the 1990 Swiss census were combined and compiled for further processing with the geographical information systems ARCINFO and ARCVIEW.
The above figures are regression analyses correlating available green space with the degree of heterogeneity of the social target groups of this study, representing the social potential of green spaces to facilitate the integration of particular social groups. The figure for Zürich shows a significant negative correlation between the available green space and the heterogeneity of the social target groups. The correlation explains 88% of the variance. It is interesting to note from the diagram that high social integrative potential can be found in regions with few green spaces. Thus, the distribution of parks in the city of Zu¨rich discriminates urban districts with a heterogeneous population. Interviews with visitors of urban forests and parks will show to what extent these urban green spaces play an important role in the perception of the respondents, and if it is an advantage for social integration to have a great social diversity of people living in the same region. If this is the case, the design of green spaces in areas with high social integrative potential could be considered for the city of Zürich.
The figure for Lugano shows a trend similar to that of Zürich, but the correlation for Lugano is not statistically significant (R^2=0.332). The population living in the study area of Lugano is approximately 10-times smaller than that of Zürich (Lugano, 67,334; Zürich, 658,753). Bearing this in mind, we may interpret the result by stating that Lugano follows the same developing pattern as Zürich, but being a smaller city the contrast between the different spaces is not that great at present.
The figure for Geneva, on the contrary, shows no correlation of the green spaces with the heterogeneity of the population. This indicates that the green spaces are evenly distributed over the whole city, and that the same amount of green space is available in zones where a high percentage of the social target groups of this study lives, i.e. where the population is more heterogeneous. Thus, Geneva shows a socially balanced distribution of green areas. Comparing the situation of Geneva with that in the other two cities, it is evident that Geneva has the best opportunity to make the most of the social integrative potential of its available green spaces.
CONCLUSIONS and outlook:
The results of the GIS analysis, combined with an evaluation of the interviews to be made, will show how and to what extent social integration in and through urban green spaces is important for city dwellers in large agglomerations of Switzerland, what amenities they expect from tomorrow’s green spaces and how they see themselves as an active part in planning, or remain skeptical as to whether green spaces can be relevant to improved opportunities for social integration.
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