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

  • Sebastian VölkerEmail author
  • Jasmin Matros
  • Thomas Claßen
Thematic Issue
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 



This work is part of the young professionals research group “German Healthy Urban Open Spaces”. We thank the Fritz and Hildegard Berg Foundation, Essen (Germany), for funding. We also thank the participants for their time.

Supplementary material

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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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