The first day of (Un)Urban: Investigating green spaces in East London has already finished, but it left us excited for the next two weeks and the challenges we will have to face. The day did not start promising, as we were welcomed by the sky covered in clouds and the heavy rain, but the bad weather did not stop Global Citizenship team from motivating us to give our best while we are here.
Global Citizenship Programme aims at giving us an opportunity to collaborate with people from different educational backgrounds and degrees, people who we might not encounter on a regular day at UCL, people who are willing to communicate and work together towards building better future. From beginning, (Un)Urban strand presents the issues concerning our well-being and behaviour in the city, things that surround us, but we usually don’t pay attention to, such as the impact of green spaces on our everyday life.
Whereas we started our day indoors, accompanied by rain outside, the afternoon brought change in location and weather, as after a great introductory lecture given by Professor Henrietta Moore and Dr Tuukka Toivonnen about what it means to be a global citizen and how important our eagerness to work together towards building better, more sustainable future is, we were put into smaller groups. After we introduced ourselves, we were given a simple, yet interesting task – we had to investigate the green spaces around UCL and become aware of their influences on us and other people. The walk enabled us to not only get to know each other a little better, but also discuss the impact of green spaces in London. We talked about architecture, urban planning, the universal need to get away from the concrete jungle, the usage of parks and gardens by people from different walks of life. We observed people who used the park despite the bad weather and discussed how different people utilise green spaces under different weather conditions.
My group decided not to follow our colleagues to Gordon Square Garden and Tavistock Square Garden, and went to Fitzroy Square Garden and Regent’s Park. Even though they are located in the same area, they serve different purposes. Fitzroy Square Garden is open to public only on particular days, normally being used only by residents of the nearby buildings. The area is important in terms of history, as George Bernard Shaw, Virginia Woolf and Francisco de Miranda are among its notable residents. The square is largely pedestrianised and the garden is fairly small, especially in comparison with Regent’s Park that is one of the biggest parks in Central London. Regent’s Park offers a wide range of outdoor activities for everyone, from playing sports to watching a play in an open-air theatre or walking a dog. It’s a great place to socialise with friends and family. These two places are great examples how the usage of green spaces differs in the big city.
Overall, the observations we made during our field trips in groups show the range of perspectives and definitely contribute to the better understanding of the need for dialogue between people to be able to create better solutions and improve our lives in urban areas. What we also learned today is that no matter how complex global challenges may seem, we must remember that it is we who have created them and we are capable of resolving them if we communicate and work together. Concentrating on the areas we walk past on our way to UCL helped us understand the ideas that (Un)Urban programme wants us to tackle.