All of us treasure our time in outdoor spaces. So why do we devote so little of our attention to their design?
As a designer in the site-furniture industry, I am always curious about the value people place on the outdoors. I like to ask people I meet to describe a great city like New York, Chicago, or Paris and what they most remember about being there. Or I ask them if they won $25,000 to spend on a dream vacation, where they would go and what they would do. Their fond memories of a celebrated city or an escape into the wild often have little in common, except for one thing: Their most memorable and meaningful experiences almost always revolve around the outdoors.
We have studies showing that people tend to be healthier and happier, and can enjoy longer lives, in areas where they have access to nature, including green urban spaces. Outdoor spaces are some of the least expensive to create and can pay some of the highest returns on investment —in terms of community life, health and wellness, and the generation of economic activity in surrounding areas. As more people —from young professionals to retirees— move back into cities, green public spaces and vibrant streetscapes are often cited as key factors for attracting residents and businesses.
Despite this, we do not give outdoor spaces the same value and financial support that we give to buildings and interiors. We calculate the square-foot dollar value of buildings and interiors but don’t do the same for a square foot outdoors. We have not made a strong business case for designed outdoor spaces —we can and should be making this case. I also believe that design and innovation in public and privately owned outdoor space is lagging— and the first step to address that challenge is to better leverage the skills and talents of landscape architects, the professionals best prepared to design them.
Excerpt from an article published in The Conversation by ichard leBrasseur.