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What will open access green space look like in a post-COVID world?

Biophilia talks about nature’s positive impacts on our mental wellbeing and health. The urge to be close to nature was never more evident than during the recent COVID-19 hard lockdown, where many urban dwellers across the world longed for green, open space. So what will these spaces look like in a post-COVID world? Leading Durban-based Urban Designer Nathan Iyer gives us his views…

What do you think the pandemic has revealed about our cities and open space?

The pandemic has reinforced our inherent need to access open space and in South Africa we saw huge numbers of people reclaiming the streets and sidewalks during the hard lockdown. This ‘re-engagement’ with the public realm has continued past the hard lockdown period.  

Why are green public spaces so important?

The desire to be close to nature is in our DNA, people just need to be close to nature. So not only are open spaces important in a city’s makeup and feel, they are vital to the health and wellbeing of its citizens. Moving beyond the pandemic, well-made and purposefully designed open spaces will play an important role in our recovery and healing process.

What do you think future public green spaces will look like?

Future green spaces will focus on a sense of generosity, promoting active lifestyles and this trend was evident even prior to COVID-19’s onset. The definition of space will change and hopefully there’ll be bold plans to reclaim essential and valuable parts of our city that are currently given over wholesale to the private car.

What interventions will be used to ensure people can safely use green spaces?

People’s ability to come together and still social distance depends on a series of conditions. This can easily be achieved in generous spaces but smaller areas will require creative design solutions that define ‘private or personal’ spaces through painted shapes etc.

South Africa is fortunate to have many generous public spaces where people can enjoy nature’s bounty but more creative solutions will be needed in denser areas to maximise these benefits and keep people safe at the same time. For more information on Nathan Iyer and his firm, please visit https://www.iyer.co.za/

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