Autoria: Marthe Laura Derkzen
An exploratory study of visiting behaviour, perceptions
and preferences in the urban green spaces of São Paulo, Brazil
Experiencing the Urban Green Space
An exploratory study of visiting behaviour, perceptions and preferences in the urban green
spaces of São Paulo, Brazil
In fulfilment of the requirements for the Master’s thesis in:
Sustainable Development - International Development
Faculty of Geosciences, Department of Innovation and Environmental Sciences
Marthe Laura Derkzen
Under supervision of Dr. Gery Nijenhuis
International Development Studies, Utrecht University
In an ever more urbanising world the role of urban green space is crucial to maintain and enhance the quality of life in cities. Green spaces provide cities with a flexible instrument to adapt to climate change, they encourage social interaction, community identity and promote an active lifestyle, green spaces generate local employment and increase property values and urban vegetation shapes a city by providing it with a natural and historical structure. Apart from these functions, urban green space is a venue for events and a place where people recreate, escape from everyday stress and routine, meet other people, and where children play in a natural environment. This recreational function of urban green space is explored by profiling the green spaces and their users in the metropolis of São Paulo, Brazil.
Through time, recreational patterns evolved from hunting games in palace gardens to shopping malls and theme parks. The use of urban green space for recreational purposes was initiated when the rural society turned into an urban-industrial society that lost the connection with nature and so the first public parks and gardens emerged in the nineteenth century. Today, outdoor recreation is influenced by a general trend of health and well-being and this is reflected in the increase of eco-tourism destinations and the presence of joggers in city parks. The ways in which urban green space is utilised is related to socioeconomic factors and to the physicality of the green space in question. Women for example, are found to engage more in walking, meeting
friends, playing with children and enjoying the landscape whereas men prefer to exercise or play team sports. Men are also found to visit parks more and likewise young people dominate urban green spaces in São Paulo. Persons with higher incomes have the possibility to travel further in search for a green space to their liking and this makes that the green space public can be very
park specific. The most common transport means are the car and a large share of the park visitors comes on foot, in particular in smaller parks that welcome predominantly visitors that live in the same area. The longer people travel, the longer they stay and the more infrequently they come to the green space. In the studied parks in São Paulo most people visit the park once or multiple times a week and their main reasons are to be in contact with nature and to relax. Sports are also a popular reason and it is mostly running, cycling and playing soccer which is done by male visitors of urban green spaces.
An interesting aspect of urban green space utilisation and perception in São Paulo is the influence of the socioeconomic context. Green spaces in more deprived urban areas are being perceived as less well-maintained, less safe, offering fewer leisure facilities and play and sport equipment is of a lower quality. Education and income levels are related with the activities of park users, the means of transport they use, house, garden and car ownership, the time of the day that people visit the park, and with the way in which people perceive the offer of urban green spaces on the city level. The latter is also influenced by people’s nature experience seeing that people who grew up in a big city are more eager to encounter nature in the green spaces than people from villages do. Altogether, the visitors, use and perception of urban green spaces in São Paulo varies substantially, for a large part due to socioeconomic characteristics and to physical green space elements.
Recommendations that can be given to green space designers, planners and managers are related to the number of green spaces, their distribution, the range and quality of available leisure equipment and activities and to safety and maintenance issues. Green space policy needs to be better informed about the people who use urban green areas, about the neighbourhoods in which they are located or will be created, about the recreational demands of current and future users and about the functionality of existing green spaces as it often happens that parks and other managed green areas are being perceived as inadequate in certain aspects and green space managers need to be informed about that through park councils but also by establishing contacts with the actual users of urban green space. Only then the use of urban green space will increase and the quality of life for urban residents can be sustained and enhanced.
When I look back at the times when I as a child was feeding the ducks and watching the deer in a city park in my hometown, these memories contain a certain feeling of happiness that only arises when I am in a green, open and natural environment. It can be described as a feeling of freedom, of unlimited space and time that makes you want to run around smiling and makes all other feelings disappear. During travels and five years of living in other countries it seemed to me that this feeling is universal, but I also noticed that the possibilities for experiencing such a feeling are not equally divided over places, that urbanisation has decimated the availability of green space, and that not everybody is in a position to reach green areas. This realisation is the main reason why I chose to write my Master’s thesis about urban green spaces and their users.
Underlying report is written as to fulfil the final requirements for the Prestige Master’s programme Sustainable Development – International Development at Utrecht University. It contains an exposition of theories regarding urban green space and the results of a field research that has been performed in São Paulo, Brazil. Urban green space is a research field gaining
importance at a time in which sustainable development, green cities, renewable energy, ecosystem services, biodiversity, corporate social responsibility and many more ‘sustainable’ thoughts and topics are juxtaposed with a continuing increase of the world’s population living in cities. In addition, global climate change makes that national and local governments need to rethink current spatial planning and design of the urban areas where a majority of the people live, where jobs are generated, identities are shaped and where the heart of their economy beats.
Urban green spaces are essential elements of the urban structure that are indispensable for a city bearing in mind the function of urban green space in biodiversity conservation, social
cohesion, image building and aesthetic attractiveness, environmental education and in protecting cities from the impact of climate change. With a focus on the social dimension of urban green space and a field study carried out in a South American metropolis this report aims to deliver a substantial contribution to the interdisciplinary field of urban green space research.
Note of appreciation
My gratitude goes out to all the persons in São Paulo who have been willing to support this study by sharing their thoughts, opinions and experiences with me: green space users, residents, park managers, policy makers and academics. I wish to thank Gery Nijenhuis from Utrecht University who agreed to be my supervisor and guided me through this research project. Gery counselled me during the thesis process with frequent meetings and quick responses to my questions, she provided constructive comments and helped in particular with regard to the working method and planning during the writing process. In Brazil I received guidance from Wagner Costa Ribeiro from the University of São Paulo whose support in the start up phase of the research
project has been especially helpful. Professors from the University of São Paulo whom I am very grateful for their contribution to the topical content of this work are Vladimir Bartalini and Demóstenes Ferreira da Silva Filho. In the field I received great support from Frederico Jun Okabayashi who works at the Municipal Secretariat of Green and Environment (SVMA) and who thought me most of my knowledge of the green areas of São Paulo. Fred showed me various urban parks, natural areas and took me to interesting meetings – together with Fred I also wish to thank Julia, Guilherme and Newton. Carlos Roberto Fortner and the entire SVMA have enabled me to visit and research the parks of São Paulo. Furthermore, I would like to thank all park administrators that supported my research and informed me about the ins and outs of their parks: Roberto Rosa in Villa-Lobos, Felipe Frascarelli Pascalicchio and Fábio Pellaes in Carmo, Heraldo Guiaro and Helena Quintana Minchin in Ibirapuera and Rodrigo Bisanson Cavalin in Pinheirinho d’Água. Finally, I am very grateful to Fernanda, Odete and Otavio who welcomed me in São Paulo, made me feel at home and make that I look back at my stay in Brazil as a very pleasant and happy period. Obrigada.
Marthe Laura Derkzen
Utrecht, the Netherlands
Table of contents
Executive summary 5
Note of appreciation 7
Table of contents 8
List of tables and figures 10
1. Introduction 15
1.1 Problem definition, aims and objectives 15
1.2 Relevance for science and society 16
1.3 Urban green spaces: a brief introduction 17
1.4 The Brazilian setting 18
1.5 Report structure 19
2. Literature review and theoretical framework 21
2.1 Urban green space in a historical context 22
2.2 Functions and services of urban green space 24
2.3 Leisure and recreation theory 29
2.4 Utilisation of urban green space 32
2.5 Landscape perception 34
2.6 Conceptual model 36
3. Methodological framework 39
3.1 Research questions and research design structure 39
3.2 Research methods 40
3.3 Selection of the research location and case studies 43
3.4 Methods of analysis 45
3.5 Limitations 47
4. Profile of the research area 51
4.1 São Paulo – A dynamic metropolis 51
4.2 Urban green space in São Paulo: policy and development 54
4.3 Case studies 59
5. Research findings 73
5.1 Visitor profiles 74
5.2 Visiting behaviour of urban green space users 79
5.3 Park users and their perceptions of urban green space 87
5.4 User preferences for urban green space 94
6. Synthesis 99
6.1 Explaining factors 999
6.2 Ways to increase user benefits 101
7. Conclusions 105
8. Discussion 109
I. Questionnaire format
II. Interviews and focus groups
IV. Tables with socioeconomic indicators on different administrative levels
V. Frequency tables
VI. Statistical tests
Underlying thesis is the outcome of a research project performed as part of the final stage of the Research Master in Sustainable Development - International Development at Utrecht University.
The study has been performed under supervision of Dr. Gery Nijenhuis from International Development Studies, Utrecht University and received support from the University of São Paulo and São Paulo’s municipal government. The research project concerns the topic of urban green spaces and city parks in particular. Visiting behaviour, perception and preferences of urban green space users have been explored in the Brazilian metropolis of São Paulo and current report contains the study results. Hopefully the findings will contribute to a better understanding of the user viewpoint related to urban green spaces, and also to the body of knowledge at Utrecht University, São Paulo University, the São Paulo city government and possible other organisations.
1.1 Problem definition, aims and objectives
Urban green spaces are vital city assets. They contribute to the quality of life and are essential to attract residents, visitors and businesses. Since the perceived quality of urban green areas is highly dependent on the valuation of its users, it is important to be informed about their visiting behaviour, perceptions and preferences. When known to what degree the current green spaces correlate with users’ preferences green area planning and management can take up this information in order to increase user benefits. Nonetheless, there is a lack of urban green space research that combines the ecological setting with the academic fields of sociology and geography. This research project responds to the need for more in-depth investigation after the interrelations and factors affecting peoples’ differentiated visiting behaviour, perceptions and preferences regarding urban green spaces.
The theoretical aim of this study is to explore the visiting behaviour, perception and preferences of users of urban green spaces and identify factors that influence these. The applied aim is to inform policy (planning, design and management practices) concerning the user functionality of urban green spaces. The objectives of the research project are as follows:
· Explore who makes use of urban green spaces and construct a user profile;
· Characterise the visiting behaviour of urban green space users;
· Explore peoples’ perception of urban green spaces and nature in general;
· Better understand people’s preferences for urban green spaces;
· Analyse factors that influence peoples’ use, perception and preferences regarding urban
· green spaces;
· Make recommendations for planning, design and management of urban green spaces,
· based on the study results.
In order to fulfil the above objectives, the following research question guides the study: What factors influence the visiting behaviour, perceptions and preferences of urban green spaceusers and to what extent can the planning, design and management of these areas increase user benefits?
1.2 Relevance for science and society
The relevance of this research project is both scientific and societal. Scientifically, current study concerns three dimensions of urban green space research that are underrepresented, namely the social aspect, the context of the Global South and that of fast-developing cities. The societal relevance embodies a better understanding of urban green space user behaviour, perception and preferences which can inform management and design, leading to enhanced user functionality, social interaction, community identity and a general improvement of a city’s quality of life.
Studies concerning urban green space can be seen as an element within urban ecology, an interdisciplinary research field that studies the improvement of people’s living environment. Going beyond the monetary focus and analytical methods of environmental and ecological economics, urban ecology stands out with research that is problem-oriented and that has proved to be highly valuable in local and regional planning (Baycan-Levent, Vreeker & Nijkamp, 2009).
The scientific relevance of this research project is threefold. First of all, the research project aims to uncover the behaviour, perception and preferences of urban green space users. It goes beyond the ecological and economic functionalities of urban green spaces and tries to reveal its function and meaning for different social groups. Priego, Breuste and Rojas (2008) suggest expanding cross-social research in the field of urban green spaces and Lo and Jim (2010, 2012) indicate that there is a need for better understanding of public perception towards urban green spaces. Secondly, the research project is set in Brazil. Priego, Breuste and Rojas (2008) point out that there is a lack of knowledge regarding urban green spaces and their utilisation in the Global South. Just 17.7 per cent of the urban landscape studies originate from the Global South, and only three per cent come from South America. Thirdly, the project uses case study sites in the city of Sao Paulo. Qureshi, Breuste and Lindley (2010) state that there is a demand for research into green spaces in fast-developing megacities since such studies have not been performed in the past few years. Taken together, different urban green specialists indicate the niches in urban green space research and thereby make a clear case for a study as intended by this research project. The project aims to gather data and generate knowledge within three areas that are currently lacking attention: the social dimension, the Global South and fast-developing cities.
The societal relevance of this research project is high, since the project has a specific focus on the social aspects of urban green spaces. With an urban environment that is constantly changing (Qureshi, Breuste and Lindley, 2010, p. 284), research into the social dimension of this environment is crucial for retaining a city’s quality of life. Seeing the many benefits that urban green spaces can have for city dwellers, it is important to investigate the user functionality and perceived quality of urban green. Better knowledge of people’s behaviour, experiences and preferences can aide urban planners and decision makers in designing and managing the city and help them live up to sustainability ambitions such as the Agenda 21 or Millennium Development Goals. This is confirmed by Baycan-Levent, Vreeker and Nijkamp (2009, p. 193) as well as by Tyrväinen, Mäkinen and Schipperijn (2007, p. 6). The research project can also lead to a better understanding of how to improve the quality of life for all residents, regardless of their socioeconomic and cultural background, and discover potential ways to increase social interaction and community identity. When the outcomes of the proposed project are taken into account in urban planning policies, residents will benefit in various ways. Park design can be adjusted to better fit users’ needs (Lo & Jim, 2010, p. 430) and new initiatives such as ecotourism can generate jobs, capacity for neighbourhood improvement and be used for environmental education (Cohen & Da Silva, 2010).
1.3 Urban green space: a brief introduction
Urban green space denotes all the green space existing in a city, from a tree lined avenue to an urban forest. The research project focuses on those green spaces that are of a substantial size, are accessible to the public and of which the function is primarily recreational. Green spaces that meet these criteria are above all city parks.
Urban green space is gaining increased attention from urban planners and within academic debates. The importance of the availability and quality of urban green spaces is acknowledged and taken up by city managers as green space is found to contribute positively to residential satisfaction and place identity. The benefits that urban green spaces bring to a city make a long list of social, ecological, economic and aesthetic functions. Green spaces offer a location for leisure activities and sports and promote community identity, they generate ecosystem services such as a reduction of air pollution and water retention, and green environments boost up property values, structure neighbourhoods and give a city its unique character.
Urban green space in research
An evaluative study by Bentsen et al. (2010) of contributions to Urban Forestry & Urban Greening, a leading scientific journal principally focusing on urban green space research, reviewed eight years of green space studies in order to improve the journal’s future content. From the review it appeared that with regard to the type of green space, research papers covered urban parks much less compared to overall green structure, woodland and trees. The reviewers state to be surprised that as little as 3.8% of all articles predominantly focus on urban parks. Moreover, Bentsen et al. found that a dominant share of contributions origins from Europe and North America, and that little is known about the social dimension of urban green space. Academic research has mainly covered the physicality and management of green spaces, leaving studies with a behavioural and social focus underrepresented. The few studies that consider the social side mostly investigate the recreational use of green spaces without asking people about their motivations, perceptions and preferences. Or it happens the other way around, as is the case with a study of Tyrväinen et al. (2007) who acknowledge that the understanding of residents’ social values and meanings regarding urban green space is limited, though refrain from linking these social values to actual behaviour.
Current research project attempts to relate differentiated patterns in visiting behaviour to socioeconomic indicators as well as to public perceptions and preferences regarding urban green space and hopes to come across factors that influence those. Priego et al. (2008) are one of the few who touched upon the topic and found that people do not use urban green in a similar way, but that green space use depends on socioeconomic status. Although hardly researched, the differentiated visiting behaviour and perception of urban green areas is very interesting, especially when combined with a study about the underlying factors. This report contains such an interdisciplinary study, and what is more, the study is not performed in Europe or North America but in the metropolitan city of São Paulo, Brazil.
1.4 The Brazilian setting
This study is set in Brazil, the largest and only Portuguese-speaking country in South-America and the fifth largest country of the world by geographical area as well as population. The reasons why Brazil is chosen as a research location is explained here. First, Brazil is one of the emerging economies; a country in transition that is exceptionally dynamic. Together with the other BRIC countries (Russia, India and China), Brazil is expected to become one of the most dominant economies by 2050 (Goldman Sachs, 2009). The country’s large labour pool and its mounting export rates make that Brazil is the world’s eighth largest economy already. Still, Brazil ranks 73rd out of 169 on the Human Development Index (UNDP 2010), indicating that national economic growth does not automatically coincide with human development on the local level.
Brazil knows quite some inequalities both between rural and urban areas and within cities, making it an interesting scene for the research project proposed. Socioeconomic and cultural differences are expected to play a major role in the ways in which city dwellers use and perceive urban green spaces and in what they prefer in these areas. Another interesting feature for this research is Brazil’s rising middle class (Goldman Sachs, 2010, p.1), which could lead to people having increased time and resources to engage in recreational activities, thereby accelerating the demand for urban green spaces. In that case, knowledge of the preferred features and functionality of urban green spaces is very useful.
A second reason is Brazil's green reputation. On the one hand, the country is infamous for the large-scale deforestation in the Amazon rainforest and its share in global greenhouse gas emissions. On the other hand, Brazil is the world's second bio ethanol producer (Hofstrand, 2009) and the cities Curitiba and Porto Alegre are often brought up as examples of sustainable
cities. A more environmentally conscious mindset seems to be developing and cities start to acknowledge the importance of urban sustainability. The Agenda 21 has been adopted by the state of São Paulo (Secretaria de Estado do Meio Ambiente, 2002) and the metropolis itself is an example of a city with growing attention for the environment seeing that it recently developed twenty one green initiatives and aims to increase its number of parks from thirty two in 2006 to one hundred in 2012 (De Mello-Théry, 2011; Raub, 2009; Secretaria de Estado do Meio Ambiente, 2011). Such developments indicate a growing interest for environmental sustainability and ‘urban greening’, offering an interesting context in which to perform this research project. Especially the example of São Paulo offers appealing possibilities for studying the functionality, perception and preferences regarding urban green spaces.
Figure 1.1 Map of Brazil with São Paulo located in the southeast
Source: Intermarine, 2006
1.5 Report structure
Eight chapters structure this thesis, of which the current Introduction is the first. This chapterserves to inform about the research motivation, aims and objectives and to give a first glance on the topic of study, urban green spaces, and the Brazilian context. Chapter two provides the theoretical foundation of the research project and includes a discussion of leisure, recreation and urban green spaces in science, resulting in a conceptual model. Following is a third chapterthat reveals the research questions and explains all facets of the chosen methodology: research design, sampling, data collection, analysis, location and case study selection. A profile of the research area, which extends from the city of São Paulo to the selected case studies, is given in chapter four in order to illustrate the area in question. The fourth chapter also gives a sketch of the development of and policy related to urban green spaces in São Paulo. The report gets to the research findings in the fifth chapter, where a thorough analysis is provided of data obtained in the field. This chapter is based upon the research questions and constructed around different research variables, comparing the studied cases with each other, searching for relationships and explaining factors, and relating the findings to theory. Chapter six frames the research findings in a synthesis and points out factors that influence park use and perception, plus a number of policy and management recommendations. Finally, this leads to drawing the conclusions and an answer to the main research question in chapter seven. Chapter eight serves to discuss the research project in relation to the literature and proposes further research possibilities.
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