After a welcome to both the Global Citizenship Programme and the IGP (Un)Urban Programme, we broke into our working group for the 9 days – Group 2. We then met each other and discussed why we each chose the course.
Our first task was an (Un)Urban journeys activity, which involved a study of a green space with close proximity to UCL. Group 2 all chose to use Gordon Square (the closest green space to the East of campus), as our subject for analysis, with the question: Do you see any obvious connection between how people use green space and their wellbeing? as the primary focus for our study.We split into three smaller groups to work with together whilst in Gordon Square and surveyed the area for approximately 45 minutes. Whilst walking around the green space, we were told to make drawings, take photographs/videos/sound recordings, and get a sense of the urban environment and how people moved and utilised the space.
One of our first observations was how wild the park seemed, in terms of the variation of plants/trees, and the amount of wildlife that resided in the area: the noticeboard said that the most common species were foxes, house mice, brown rats and grey squirrels. (pigeons aside!) The amount of wild flowers, in particular bluebells, and variety of grass and tree sizes helped to create this sense of wilderness or oasis, within such an urban environment. The amount of foliage and trees on the outskirts of the park was greater, especially on each of the corners of the square, which helps contribute to the sense of privacy and unfrequented nature of the square, blocking out the visual and noise pollution from the adjacent roads. There are also small mounds and patches of dense grass, which provides relief from the flat and repetitive environment of London’s streets.
The square has around 15 benches, a café, open grass in the middle and two statues. Most people in the park were either eating lunch, chatting to a friend, or utilising the park as a peaceful diversion on their route to work/home. We met a woman who comes to the square everyday without fail (even in the winter months), some commuters and a tourist walking her baby around. To all these people the green space was evidently contributing to their daily wellbeing. We also discussed how people might be more inclined to meet or have a serious chat in a park, due to the sense of peacefulness and privacy. Then, we spoke to the café manager, who considered the majority of the users of the park to be those who study/work nearby, along with those who use it as a transitionary route. However, one problem that arose was the recent closure of the north gate, which has disrupted people’s routes and accessibility to the park; but it does arguably increase the privacy and sense of the seclusion that the square offers.