Humans are the dominating elements of an urban environment. Social interaction, as a basic need for humans, is essential in developing sense of community, belonging and security. Social interaction in cities is possibly the highest in public open and green spaces. Urban open and green spaces offer citizens various activity choices including recreational and sports activities which promote social cohesion. In 1992, researchers from Pennsylvania State University have conducted a nationwide study to investigate American public’s perceptions of the benefits of local recreation and park services. They concluded that local parks and recreation services are linked to sense of community.
Furthermore people from different demographical backgrounds share public urban landscape in their everyday life. While today democracy is regarded as the only legitimate form of government throughout the world, urban open and green spaces possess the notion of democracy in their nature. These places are designed and serve to everyone in the community. On the other hand this raises the issues of accessibility, equity and participatory planning which will be discussed in the next section.
All people need leisure time for relaxation and self fulfillment. Especially people living in urban environments seem to be more stressed and need more leisure time for their physical and mental health. There is a strong relationship between lifestyles, physical environment and leisure (Oguz & Qakci, 2010). Most people engage in leisure activities so that they can socialize. Urban open and green spaces can be designed to serve the community’s leisure needs. It has also an economical aspect; for example playing ball games in a park or picnicking with friends is much cheaper than having a membership to a sports club or going to a restaurant. Unfortunately, nowadays people seem to spend more time indoors rather than outdoors which also leads to physical health problems due to inadequate physical activity. Designers should consider the ways to attract people to open and green spaces so that every group in the community can enjoy social benefits of urban landscape as well.
Environmental education can be regarded amongst the social benefits of urban landscapes. Green spaces can be thought of as outdoor laboratories to observe and get to know about nature. Environmental education is necessary for developing awareness and responsible behaviors towards the natural environment, especially for children. Although environmental education is integrated within the most school curricula, without physical interaction with natural environments it is not possible to develop environmentally responsible behaviors and attitudes (Qakci & Oguz, 2010). Green spaces in urban landscape may play an important role in environmental education. For instance, botanical parks are where people can learn about different plants, their living conditions and observe the physiological changes during time. Even urban street trees present the seasonal physiological changes in plants. Green spaces are also found to have impact on reducing violent behaviors in urban environments. For example Sullivan and Kuo (1996) investigated the effects of plants on social behavior and concluded that urban forests can help to reduce domestic violence levels in cities (Jackson, 2003).