Where Does Community Grow?

Rebekah Levine Coley, Frances E. Kuo & William C. Sullivan

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Coley, R. L. , Kuo, F. E. & Sullivan, W. C. (1). Where Does Community Grow?. Environment and Behavior, 29(4), 468–494. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/001391659702900402

Defensible Spaces , Landscaping , Public Housing , Semi-private Spaces , Trees

This study examines how the availability of nature influences the use of outdoor public spaces in two Chicago public housing developments. Ninety-six observations were collected of the presence and location of trees and the presence and location of youth and adults in semiprivate spaces at one high-rise and one low-rise public housing development. Results consistently indicated that natural landscaping encourages greater use of outdoor areas by residents. Spaces with trees attracted larger groups of people, as well as more mixed groups of youth and adults, than did spaces devoid of nature. In addition, more dense groupings of trees and trees that are located close to public housing buildings attracted larger groups of people. These findings suggest that natural elements such as trees promote increased opportunities for social interactions, monitoring of outdoor areas, and supervision of children in impoverished urban neighborhoods.

Main finding
This study explores the relationship between the presence (or absence) of trees in public housing courtyards and the use of those courtyards by young people. While the most optimal number of trees for any particular courtyard varies, those with trees were used more than those without.

Description of method used in the article
Observational data (96 observations) collected on the (a) presence of trees; and (b) presence, characteristics, and behavior of residents at two public housing developments in Chicago, Illinois. Data was collected in June 1994 by trained observers who had lived in public housing for at least 19 years. Public housing developments include: (a) Robert Taylor Homes (28, 16-floor high-rise buildings), and (b) Ida B. Wells development (70 low-rise rowhouses). Researchers conducted “observational walk-bys” at different times of day to record the presence of people and trees in various outdoor spaces at the developments.

Of some practical use if combined with other research

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