Lively Social Space, Well-Being Activity, and Urban Design: Findings From a Low-Cost Community-Led Public Space Intervention

Jamie Anderson, Felicia Huppert, Kai Ruggeri & Koen Steemers

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Anderson, J. , Huppert, F. , Ruggeri, K. & Steemers, K. (1). Lively Social Space, Well-Being Activity, and Urban Design: Findings From a Low-Cost Community-Led Public Space Intervention. Environment and Behavior, 49(6), 685–716.

Liveliness , Neighborhood , Plazas , Population Intervention , Urban Design , Well Being

Empirical urban design research emphasizes the support in vitality of public space use. We examine the extent to which a public space intervention promoted liveliness and three key behaviors that enhance well-being (“connect,” “be active,” and “take notice”). The exploratory study combined directly observed behaviors with self-reported, before and after community- led physical improvements to a public space in central Manchester (the United Kingdom). Observation data (n = 22,956) and surveys (subsample = 212) were collected over two 3-week periods. The intervention brought significant and substantial increases in liveliness of the space and well-being activities. None of these activities showed increases in a control space during the same periods. The findings demonstrate the feasibility of the research methods, and the impact of improved quality of outdoor neighborhood space on liveliness and well-being activities. The local community also played a key role in conceiving of and delivering an effective and affordable intervention. The findings have implications for researchers, policy makers, and communities alike.

Main finding
This study examines whether small-scale, slow-cost changes to outdoor public space can increase the "liveliness" of such spaces and behaviors associated with well-being. In comparing two otherwise analogous parks, the inclusion of such interventions (e.g., artwork, WiFi, and other low-cost modifications) driven by community member engagement was associated with increased user engagement and well-being activities.

Description of method used in the article
Direct observations and self-reported surveys (N = 212) in city center of Manchester, United Kingdom. Two different plazas were identified as the treatment and control locations, respectively. Both locations were north-facing, overshadowed by buildings, consisted of similar materials, and situated along roads of comparable traffic. First, was an evaluation of the existing outdoor resources to both sites. Interventions to the treatment site included: beetle and bee hives, an environmentally-oriented mural, installation of free WiFi, shade-tolerant planting, a lawn, vegetation management, recycled seating, painting, and cleaning.

Of some practical use if combined with other research

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