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

Abstract

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.

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Fig. 1

Notes

  1. 1.

    According to the definition of the Federal Bureau of Statistics (2014: 6) people with ‘migration background’ are all people, who moved to Germany after 1949, foreigners born in Germany and Germans born in Germany with at least one parent who moved to Germany after 1949 or who is a foreigner born in Germany.

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Acknowledgments

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.

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Correspondence to Sebastian Völker.

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This article is part of a Topical Collection in Environmental Earth Sciences on ‘‘Water in Germany’’, guest edited by Daniel Karthe, Peter Chifflard, Bernd Cyffka, Lucas Menzel, Heribert Nacken, Uta Raeder, Mario Sommerhäuser and Markus Weiler.

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Völker, S., Matros, J. & Claßen, T. Determining urban open spaces for health-related appropriations: a qualitative analysis on the significance of blue space. Environ Earth Sci 75, 1067 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12665-016-5839-3

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Keywords

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