The Functions of Urban Nature: Uses and Values of Different Types of Urban Nature Settings

Talbot, Janet Frey, Bardwell, Lisa V., & Kaplan, Rachel

Talbot, J., Bardwell, L., & Kaplan, R. (1987). THE FUNCTIONS OF URBAN NATURE: USES AND VALUES OF DIFFERENT TYPES OF URBAN NATURE SETTINGS. Journal of Architectural and Planning Research, 4(1), 47-63.


Uses and perceptions of nine nearby, easily-accessible outdoor areas were studied by interviewing 89 residents of a multiple-family housing development. Judgments of perceived sizes, size adequacy, use frequencies, preferences, and perceived importance were elicited, along with descriptions of personal uses. The findings reveal consistent differences between three general types of areas which serve distinct functions. The yards serve territorial needs, the common areas and public athletic fields afford recreational opportunities, and a nearby wooded area with a pond provides a highly preferred setting for a variety of nature-related pursuits. Although most ratings varied across the different types, ratings of perceived importance were high for each. The findings of this study clarify the relationships among physical size, use patterns and preferences for different areas. They also illustrate the diverse affordances of different urban nature areas, and emphasize the important role that nature contacts play in the everyday lives of urban residents.

Main finding
The study revealed that residents consistently differentiated between the types of outdoor areas highlighting the need for physically distinct areas to adequately meet the outdoor needs of residents. The study also found that physical size is not related to preference for public open spaces in an urban setting. Despite the limited size of the common area, the residents percieved it as fairly adequate due to it's high functional value for gardening, socializing, relaxing, etc. The residents also recognized the physical limitations of their own yards but valued this space as an extension of their home. On the other hand, the forest/pond complex received highest preference ratings despite infrequent use for its perceived value as a refuge.

Description of method used in the article
This study was conducted in a 39-acre multifamily housing development in Ann Arbor, MI. The participating residents (n=89) were interviewed individually using a standard questionnaire including black and white photographs of the various types of open spaces in the omplex. The responses to questions about percieved size, adequacy and preference were recorded using a 5 point scale.

Of practical use

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