Safety and freedom to choose

Safety is the single most important issue relating to all kinds of naturalistic ecological planting in public urban settings, but particularly to woody vegetation. Whilst both anecdotal evidence and research suggest that thoughtful design can contribute to a sense of safety (Jorgensen et al. 2002), it seems clear that there are many people who will remain wary of naturalistic ecological plantings. Equally, there is evidence that such people might value the existence of such plantings whilst not wanting to interact with them (Tartaglia-Kershaw 1980; Kaplan and Kaplan 1989). Ways of addressing these concerns are suggested below.

– One method is to provide a gradient from intensive and overtly designed landscapes to

extensive and naturalistic ones (Manning 1982; Dowse 1987). The intensive and overtly designed landscapes should be located close to buildings and centres of activity. This enables users to make choices about whether and when to visit the more naturalistic landscapes, and gives them a range of possible activities and settings.

– Another approach, which can be used either on its own or in tandem with the gradient

suggested above, is to incorporate route choices into public urban green-spaces and to make these options legible (Luymes and Tamminga 1995). This means always giving people realistic choices between routes that are open, well-lit and hard-surfaced, and routes that do not necessarily have all of these characteristics and are more integrated with the vegetation, with a more adventurous feel to them. An essential feature of this approach is to make the differences between the routes consistent and clear, implicitly by design and explicitly through signage.

– A further method of mitigating concerns about safety, tidiness and appropriateness is to

place naturalistic ecological planting within a very formal context, as previously mentioned. This can clearly be done on a small scale, but also on a larger scale, as in the Parc des Poteries in Strasbourg, France (Figure 11.13). Here the naturalistic meadow-style planting is contained within an area demarcated by a grid of trees in circular concrete ‘planters’. The meadow can be viewed or entered from the ground but can also be traversed by a boardwalk passing above ground level.