Neo-spaces for urban livability? Urbanites' versatile mental images of green roofs in the Helsinki metropolitan area, Finland

Submitted by Marja Mesimäki on December 10, 2018 - 4:11pm

Within the context of enhancing sustainable and livable urban environments, one aim is to establish multifunctional green infrastructure (GI). We argue that in order to successfully plan and manage the development of GI, an inclusive and future-oriented stance concerning the needs and expectations of urbanites is required. By using green roofs as an example, the aim of this paper was to offer insights into how people envisage novel GI in urban environments and to reveal the scope of meanings and values people attach to these kinds of green infrastructure. We present results based on 149 stories collected with the method of empathy-based stories. Respondents were asked to use their imagination to produce mental images of not-yet-existing green roofs in different urban situations. Our results reflect a rich set of dimensions of green roofs that the respondents vividly imagined. Green roofs may contribute to the livability of urban areas in multiple ways, such as strengthening social cohesion, providing space for everyday renewal and restoration, offering interesting sceneries and multisensory experiences, softening the hard cityscape, showing ephemeral events and making experiences of “height” possible, as well as increasing the “contact with nature” experiences for residents, e.g. through biodiverse nature in the middle of built environments. Furthermore, the need for local, customized solutions that offer different benefits and experiences was expressed. Using both qualitative and quantitative analyses, we idealized four green roof meta-types for understanding the diverse expectations people may have for green roofs in urban area: Urban farm, Oasis, Urban hill and Meadow. Based on our results we suggest that comprehensive experiences and needs of people should be taken into account when designing urban green roofs or urban green in general – not only, e.g. visual pleasure. Also, site- and user-specific solutions should be considered instead of generally applied ones. Our results offer tools for, e.g. urban planners to understand the value of diverse green roof solutions to the user.

Mesimäki, M., Hauru, K., Kotze, D.J. & Lehvävirta S. (2017). Neo-spaces for urban livability? Urbanites' versatile mental images of green roofs in the Helsinki metropolitan area, Finland. Land Use Policy 61: 587-600. AUDIO SLIDES:
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NbS Actions
NbS Ecosystem
NbS Region