Why Public Open Spaces are More Crucial Than Ever
Why public open spaces are now more crucial than ever
Authentic and frequent connections between people are the foundation of any community. In an era of rapid technological changes, bursting schedules and fast-paced urban lifestyles, there is little time for reflection and incidental interactions with people outside workplaces and immediate family. Yet, research has long shown that a sense of belonging to a community is crucial to sustaining health and wellbeing.
Against this backdrop, thoughtful place-making and considered design to create public open spaces that support connection to nature, and other people, can encourage more balanced, healthy lifestyles.
High-density living is on the rise, changing residents’ needs for outdoor space
As populations and urban centres grow, higher density developments are more commonplace. The Property Council of Australia reported that a generational gap is emerging when it comes to housing density, with younger people most likely to support denser housing in established suburbs if it helps to improve housing affordability.
Buyers are placing less importance on private, expansive backyards and instead pushing for developments with more inclusive and inviting parks and other public open spaces to unwind, exercise, walk the dog or play with friends and family. This presents a unique opportunity for today’s developers: to respond to emerging living and working trends, and, in so doing, play a key role in fostering authentic, real-world connections.
Cedar Woods’ Jackson Green development in Victoria embodies the ideals associated with the need for open spaces in a higher density living situation. The growing estate is home to a central park with a dedicated dog exercise area, as well as a playground, shelter and BBQ area. This allows for residents to live a simplistic lifestyle, with more time to enjoy it. Access to quality green space supports a healthly lifestyle and mental wellbeing.
Cedar Woods Managing Director, Nathan Blackburne said carefully curated spaces can work to encourage conversations between residents and create important community ties.
“What’s been proven time and time again is that estates with the strongest success are those that combine well-designed housing products with well developed common areas such as parks, walking trails and green open spaces. A place to play, interact and be in nature are the key ingredients,” he said.
Public open spaces as key social and environmental infrastructure
Consumers are becoming more socially, culturally, economically and ecologically conscious. The provision of parks and open green spaces in developments can produce and support more eco-concious communities as they can feed the consumer need of connecting with others as well as connecting with the outdoors.
“As the environment changes, there is an increasing expectation that developers carefully plan and provide these spaces, to create a welcoming and engaging community for new residents and ensure outdoor and indoor spaces in a community are well integrated, balanced and in harmony with the local natural environment.”
“At the new Adventure Park in Ariella Private Estate, Western Australia, for example, our objective was to conserve and put a spotlight on the existing Marri and Melaleuca woodland. Local, native animals and insects found here are depicted throughout the park, in the form of carved totems and a large dragonfly play structure,” Nathan said.
A shift towards nature and community connection
EPCAD Landscape Architect, Kären Lowndes has collaborated with Cedar Woods since 2006 to create innovative open spaces that cater to the diverse needs of residents of all ages. She says communities increasingly call for nature-play elements that provide creative learning opportunities for families.
“Our Ariella Wetland Park incorporates spaces for people to pause and reflect on the local flora and fauna, and for children to play and learn. There are ‘take off your shoes’ stone foot massage tracks, designed for both children and adults alike.
“The main inspiration for this Wetland Park was for rest, relaxation and taking time to enjoy nature. The linear parkland wraps carefully around the existing wetland, so this was a great opportunity to integrate the new, more formal landscape with the existing natural wetlands,” Kären said.
As part of developing this park, the team collaborated with Headspace, a National Youth Mental Health Foundation providing early intervention mental health services to young people. Through this collaboration, mindful signage was designed throughout the park to encourage park-users to meditate, take deep breaths and engaged with their senses to take in the natural surroundings.
On the East coast, feedback from residents in Cedar Woods’ Ellendale development in Queensland further illustrates the trend towards ‘nature-based exploration’ for residents – championing elements of nature through natural bush walking tracks and paths throughout the community.
On the horizon, ‘nature-based play’ will be put in focus, with its incorporation in upcoming parks and open spaces in the masterplan. Nature-based play is all about using items from nature such as logs, stones, and rope, to create natural, open-ended play environments in contrast with traditional, structured playgrounds. Queensland has a second 4,000m2 open space green park in the works for 2022 at its Greville estate. Located 5km from the Brisbane CBD, this park is designed to provide casual leisure and amenity within an urban environment.
“In line with demand for more nature playgrounds, we are also seeing interest in spaces that foster sensory, hands-on learning experiences for children using natural materials and encouraging creative thinking. An example would be water play with pump action taps, troughs and pipes, with the ability to build small stone dams and learn how obstacles can manipulate water,” Kären said.
As demand for higher density, inner city living rises, it is important to consider residents of all ages and how to improve their experience and cater to their diverse needs within a new community.
“Parks and open spaces play a huge role in encouraging positive mental health, particularly during the global pandemic when lockdowns are prevalent and local outdoor exercise is critical,” Kären said.
Over 15,000 sqm of parkland has been made available for the community at Cedar Woods’ Glenside estate in South Australia. The main community park at Glenside features a large multi-use grassed area, playground, half-court basketball, a family picnic area with shelters and BBQ facilities. The park includes thoughtfully designed play spaces around the treelined perimeter, while new trees have been planted to provide additional shade and complement the mature trees around the parks’ edge.
Cedar Woods’ newest development in WA, Incontro Subiaco is planned to feature an array of public open spaces to encourage community connection. A green stretch of parkland has been included within the projects masterplan to flow through the spine of the inner-city development, creating a serene connecting passage, with mature trees, lawn and seating. Within Inconto’s apartments, a dedicated communal flexible living space allows for residents to make it their own, whether that be for co-working, entertaining or hosting corporate meetings – the area includes a dining and living space, BBQ and kitchen facilities and a boardroom with flatscreen TV. These areas have been designed to act as an extension of the resident’s living space.
Honouring local history and creating community ties
Another example of community connection through space can be found in Cedar Woods’ Williams Landing development in Victoria, with elements inspired from the site’s pre-existing RAAF airbase throughout parks and open spaces, paying homage to local history and stimulating awareness and conversations within the community. Feedback from residents indicates that these talking points and public open spaces provide a point of interest and encourage Williams Landing to maintain a tight-knit community.
Moving towards a post-lockdown world, people are craving real, face-to-face connection more than ever. Providing considered public open spaces in residential developments continues to be a key objective for Cedar Woods going forward.
Current success stories aside, there is more to come as Cedar Woods continues to push the boundaries of what public spaces can be and achieve.
Future developments planned across Cedar Woods’ national portfolio are set to bring unique design elements together with classic green spaces to deliver a fresh experience and support residents in creating balanced, healthy lifestyles through a connection to nature and each other.
From nature playgrounds and community gardens to public parks with bush tracks, heritage zones and classic BBQ and shaded rest areas, the evolution of public open spaces in Cedar Woods communities continues to respond to residents’ changing needs.