This paper investigates how urban greenspace is integrated in everyday practices of urban populations. What are the social functions that green areas serve, and how do people interact with the materiality of urban greenspace – its bio-physical structures and its nature and landscape. The paper reports from a recent empirical study in the city of Copenhagen, Denmark, and it seeks to unfold and qualify concepts of lifestyle and practice, i.e. concepts by which sociological studies can capture and understand patterns of actions in people’s daily lives and life courses. Particularly it seeks to include an understanding of the role of materiality in the analyses of social practices. Inspired by actor-network theory the paper proposes to analyse the role of urban greenspace in everyday practices as actant functions performed by the greenspace and its elements. A number of studies show that urban green areas are beneficial for human health. These studies do, however, not go into a broader understanding of the social significance of urban greenspace and its significance in people’s lives. The social functions of urban green areas are not limited to whatever good effects they have on public health. The question is also which roles green areas play in people’s lives and in the community. The study presented in this paper shows that urban green areas are included in everyday life as spaces for free time and for household flexibility. They serve a number of different social functions by providing spaces for solitude, for being together with close friends and relatives and for the experience of civic diversity. And the possibility of having experiences of nature and landscape become an integral part of urban life.
Journal of Environmental Policy and Planning, 2013, Vol 15, Issue 3, p. 353-370
Practice; lifestyle; urban greenspace; materiality; actant function