visibility_off Green Zones and the Urban Core

  • What is a Green Zone

Gardens and parks, like New York City’s iconic Central Park, have played a major cultural role for millenia-- a role that is expanding in modern times as our definition of “green” broadens to include healthfulness.

Green Zones are modern urban spaces that encourage healthfulness, human connection, and engagement with nature. Green Zones can be a waterfront, walkways along a river, playgrounds, public squares, or streets designed to create human connection. We are also beginning to see libraries, museums, campuses, and even transportations systems themselves (such as aerial gondolas) are employing the same design ethos of Green Zones to create a sense of ease and discovery. As cities, city planners, and architects aim to redefine Urban Cores, how can we create an understanding of thriving ecotone based on Green Zones?

Istock (if this works I will purchase the full-size image)


As we brainstorm around the role of Green Zones in the Urban Cores of the future, here are a few major themes for consideration.

  • Community Value

As we look to build empathy for the citizens of the Urban Core, we focus our attention on the people and organizations that advocate for Green Zones as places where people can thrive. From the lens of community value (any benefits to the individuals in the community or their cohesion as a society), we understand the importance of Green Zones as being a place for multigenerational enjoyment and play. A place where people can allow their kids to wonder/wander, where elders may find reprieve and their own gathering place to deepen life long friendships, or where anyone can explore a well-worn path.

To support happy, equitable and vibrant urban communities, future Green Zones must go beyond the traditional definitions of the park as a community place, instead offering multiple benefits such as better walkability, more social cohesion, and improved environments for kids, and a generally more happy, equitable and vibrant community. Which defining features of the 21st century do you think will be reflected in an Urban Core’s Green Zone? How will Green Zones mirror our future societies and bring out the best in us?

Courtesy: Richard Levine, Alamy//National Geographic

  • Public Health Value

Public Health has been an active field of study since the rise of the first epidemics in cities during the 19th century. A key facet of Public Health is focused on understanding how cities create or detract from the wellbeing of the community as whole. As Urban Cores become “smart,” how will we leverage Green Zones to improve public health by integrating them into  the “heart” of an Urban Core?

Two of the top sources of premature death in developed countries-- a sedentary lifestyle and psychological well being-- promise to be major factors shaping the character of an Urban Core. What other health risks can be addressed or opportunities exploited through a fresh look at the role of Green Zones?

Image copyright Hubert J. Steed.

  • Economic Value

Cities are economic engines critical to a region’s competitiveness, requiring the attraction and retention of a skilled workforce. Knowledge workers, creatives, some families and especially young people are choosing to live and work in Urban Cores that offer amenities contributing to an excellent quality of life-- including a well-designed, connected system of Green Zones  

How will cities continue to understand the importance and value of investing in Green Zones that give their workforce a place to relax their brains and stretch their limbs?


Courtesy: shiyangwang.com/off/

  • Ecological Value

We often forget that cities are a living laboratory of ecology: a place where humans and society interact with nature, even when that swath of the Earth’s crust is completely constructed by human ingenuity. For example, well-routed trails provide return-on-investment by keeping urban communities strolling, exercising, commuting, and even farming. In these Green Zones, the ecosystem of services provided to plants, animals, and residents is appreciated as our reciprocal connection to nature becomes apparent.

How will we continue to understand and define the ecological value that Green Zones bring to Urban Core residents (people, flora, and fauna alike)?

Courtesy: /blueurbanism.org/

We know what made Green Zones work in the past, we have a good idea what makes them work now, but what we really need is a perspectives on is going to make them work in the future!

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