Determining urban open spaces for health-related appropriations: a qualitative analysis on the significance of blue space

Thematic Issue

DOI: 10.1007/s12665-016-5839-3

Cite this article as:
Völker, S., Matros, J. & Claßen, T. Environ Earth Sci (2016) 75: 1067. doi:10.1007/s12665-016-5839-3
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Water in Germany


Blue space can be regarded as a key component of urban development as it contributes to sustainability, landscape contextualisation, environmental quality, quality of life and human health. However, existing studies on urban blue spaces do not differentiate between size and type of space and do not explain the mechanisms of how urban blue spaces interact with appropriations that affect health. In our study, we chose seven urban open spaces in Germany with different types of urban blue (in the cities of Bielefeld, Gelsenkirchen, Dusseldorf, Cologne). We conducted standardised qualitative interviews with n = 211 urban blue space visitors, assessing their health-related appropriations of those spaces (use, experience, social, meaning). Via Correspondence Analysis, we profiled these seven spaces. Our results show that blue experience is an important appropriation in urban open spaces. The amount of green and blue space has a significant influence on health-related appropriative processes. Health-related appropriations shift with the profile of the blue urban open space and the proportion of land the blue space covers. Even in cities with few water features, urban blue induces intensive (restorative) experiences, creates meaning, attracts urban dwellers, promotes physical activity, and diversifies health experiences in urban contexts. We identify implications for public health, urban planning and landscape design. This paper is a valuable contribution to the current research trend in Germany to analyse the significance for human health and well-being of bodies of water in urban areas.


Urban blue Urban green Urban open space Landscape design Public health Well-being 

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (KML 4 kb)

Funding information

Funder NameGrant NumberFunding Note
Fritz and Hildegard Berg Foundation, Essen (Germany)

    Copyright information

    © Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

    Authors and Affiliations

    1. 1.Institute for Hygiene and Public HealthUniversity of BonnBonnGermany
    2. 2.Chair of Landscape ArchitectureRWTH Aachen UniversityAachenGermany
    3. 3.School of Public HealthUniversity of BielefeldBielefeldGermany

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