Open Studio 3: Solutions for inclusive access to green commons

Open studio #3, Cycle #1

The third Open Studio of the first cycle, held on 12 and 13 October, 2021, was titled ‘Better is Possible: Solutions for Inclusive Access to Green Commons. It brought together a number of participants from the RESISTIRÉ consortium itself as well as experts, stakeholders, and creative people from outside of the project.

The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the many benefits of green commons in terms of health and maintaining social connections, but it also exposed the unequal access to these kinds of spaces and the outstanding issues that are associated with them. This Open Studio sought to find solutions to the many limitations that green commons still have when various vulnerable and marginalised groups in society try to make use of them and enjoy their supposedly universal benefits.

One of the core issues that constituted the main focus of the Open Studio was the unequal availability of green spaces and the open question of how to create new green commons. The urban grey-green divide, meaning the phenomenon where lower-income neighbourhoods are less green and farther removed from urban green spaces, has severe impacts on physical and mental health inequalities, on the ability of people in different neighbourhoods to engage in social interaction and community-building, on the unequal management of green spaces, and on the design of green spaces. These situation reflects the values of dominant socioeconomic groups. Furthermore, this divide exacerbates intersectional inequalities, with class/socioeconomic status often intersecting with ethnicity/race, nationality/migrant status, sexual orientation, gender identity, etc.

A second core issue constitutes the accessibility of green commons in terms of disability, age, and space. With regards to disability, can disabled people make their way around green spaces independently and is there adequate provision of adapted facilities? As for age, does the infrastructure of green spaces allow for visits by elderly people, teenagers and children? Finally, in terms of space, crowded spaces dominated by specific groups can exclude the presence of other groups, i.e., noisy children prevent elderly people from visiting. Another core issue encompasses the various safety concerns for green spaces: empty and secluded areas can pose safety issues for women and other groups, children playing in public spaces involves risks from traffic and dangerous people, and blue areas (bodies of water) pose an additional safety issue for children and people who are unable to swim. Lastly, the unequal management of green spaces and the often-discriminatory policing that happens in and around them have negative effects on the uptake of green spaces by marginalised groups. 

The main questions that this OS tried to find answers to were the following: how can we ensure that green spaces are available to everyone and how do we reduce the grey-green divide? How can we channel existing community impulses to create new green commons? Are there ways in which we can further stimulate local bottom-up initiatives for more green space? How do we design public green spaces so that a diverse group of people is comfortable in them and is encouraged to seek them out? What practical, environmental, and aesthetic aspects can be changed to improve diversity of turnout? How can we make green commons adaptable depending on the time of day, the needs of users, etc.? How do we ensure that public green spaces are safe for everyone and how do we prevent (gender-based) violence even at times when green spaces are sparsely populated? How can we facilitate a more equal and diverse local management of public green spaces? How do we prevent discriminatory policing by public authorities and local law enforcement?

To these and related questions, the Open Studio was meant to provide a multitude of responses and potential solutions.