Jenny Brotchie, Carnegie UK Trust: Places that love people
Anyone who has been to Copenhagen the home of influential Danish architect Jan Gehl can readily understand the impact that good design can have on our health. In Copenhagen 41% of journeys are made by bike (compared with the Scottish average of 1%) thanks in part to investment in high quality infrastructure that creates a safe, welcoming environment for cyclists.
The link between good design and healthy travel choices is something that many of us intrinsically understand but there is also good evidence to back this up.
Well-designed local environments can do more than simply help us walk and cycle more frequently. The environments that we live in have a fundamental impact on our wider wellbeing.
Harry Burns the former Chief Medical Officer of Scotland talks about ‘salutogenic’ environments: environments which supports health and wellbeing. Living in unpredictable and unsafe environments can lead to chronic stress and have a long term biological impact. So called ‘resilience factors’ such as: a sense of cultural identity; social connectedness and success in work can however help us to manage stress.
Wellbeing is further enhanced if communities take the lead in improving and developing public spaces. Not only does community led design often lead to better design solutions (because local communities understand best what kind of improvements would most make a difference to their lives) but ongoing community involvement can deliver a range of individual and community improvements in wellbeing .
In September this year I was privileged to visit five inspiring community led projects that each sought to improve community wellbeing through public space improvements. The projects: four from Scotland and one from Northern Ireland were all winners of our Carnegie Prize for Design and Wellbeing. Launched earlier this year the aim of the Prize was to highlight the link between good design, community lead and wellbeing.
Our four winners included: a community garden that has brought two halves of the small town of Auchencairn together; a tenants residents association who had brought a neglected park back into use; an active travel project in Kirkcaldy that worked with the local community to create safer streets; a community garden established on the site of former tower blocks in Greenock; and a citizen focused arts project in Ballymena which sought to bring some life back into the town centre at night.
All of them spoke enthusiastically about the positive changes their projects both in terms of physical improvements but also in social outcomes as well.
Sadly however these types of projects are all too often the exception rather than the norm. A strong social gradient exists in terms of the quality of our local environment – too many of us live in poor quality locales.
In our recent report Places that love people the Carnegie UK Trust has identifed three key ways in which public spaces can support wellbeing.
Drawing on the experiences of our Carnegie Prize for Design and Wellbeing winners the Carnegie UK Trust has also identified 5 recommendations for policymakers and practitioners.
You can access the full report and recommendations here. If you would like more information or if you have any ideas about how we can translate our recommendations into action we would love to hear from you.
Please get in touch with Jenny Brotchie, Policy Officer
You can follow Jenny on twitter at @Jenny_Carnegie.