Study: Irregularly Shaped Parks Associated With Lower Mortality Risk

– Updated –

Washington Square Park “plans”

Part of the contentious aspect of the redesign of Washington Square Park (late 2007 – 2014) as designed by the Bloomberg Administration, against community wishes, was about the plan’s focus on “alignment” and “symmetry,” which involved changing many aspects of the much loved 1970 design of the park. This included relocating the famous fountain, moving it from its historic location 22 feet east to align with the Arch. Turns out there are other reasons that wasn’t such a good idea.

A study recently published in The Lancet Planetary Health outlines why, explaining that “the shape or form of green space has an important role” on people’s health and well-being. The redesigner of this public space, George Vellonakis, is a fan of rectilinearity, with its obsessive symmetry, and ignorant of the psychological benefits of asymmetry in public space. Vellonakis is now the park’s administrator, another controversial decision by the Parks Department (well, in theory, it was the city agency’s decision to appoint Vellonakis to this position. Vellonakis, also controversially, has a “dual role” as Executive Director of Washington Square Park Conservancy. Although WSP remains managed by the city agency, it remains unclear how much influence the private group had on his hiring.).

Via The Health Site / ANI late last November:

Some community parks are square, a reflection of the city block they’re located at — and a new study has found that irregularly shaped parks reduce the mortality risk of residents living near them.

“Nearly all studies investigating the effects of natural environments on human health are focused on the amount of a community’s green space,” said the researchers.

“We found that the shape or form of green space has an important role in this association,” they added in the study published in The Lancet Planetary Health.

In the study, researcher-s performed statistical analyses of Philadelphia land cover data to assess links between landscape spatial metrics and health outcomes.

They found that residents in census tracts with more connected, aggregated, and complex-shaped green spaces had a lower mortality risk.

“Our results suggest that linking existing parks with greenways or adding new, connected parks might be fiscally accessible strategies for promoting health,” said Huaquing Wang, a Ph.D. Urban and Regional Sciences student and Lou Tassinary, professor of visualisation.

Researchers explained that the complexity in the shape of the park was positively associated with lower mortality risk.

“This association might be attributable to the increased number of access points provided by complex-shaped green spaces,” they continued.

While lower mortality risk wasn’t associated with any particular form, the data supports the idea that the more complex the park shape, the better, Wang said.

The relationship between park shape and mortality is important to city designers and planners who seek to create healthier living environments, they said in the paper.

The Health Site via ANI

Previously at Washington Square Park Blog:

Landmarks Preservation Commission Meets Today on Washington Sq Park March 17, 2009

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