The outdoors has become a peaceful refuge for many during this collective pause. Safety measures from Covid-19 have amplified this sentiment and brought greater attention to the value of our parks, urban spaces and neighborhood public realm. For many, this has been a welcome return to the restorative powers of spending time in the sunshine, breathing in fresh air and being surrounded by nature.

As communities slowly inch toward the ‘new-normal’, a significant portion of the population will seek to hold on to these healthy principles as part of their everyday life. While some may make it a point to eat lunch outside more often and others are drawn to outdoor spaces as their new gym or place of recreation, there has been an explicit shift towards healthier living with holistic wellness at its core.

At EDSA, we have always focused on creating engaging outdoor spaces, but now see an elevated responsibility in diversifying their functionality to increase utilization and sustain healthy behavior. For example, durable, low maintenance, adaptable site furnishings allow people to enjoy lunch outdoors, but can also serve as impromptu conference tables with the addition of solar-powered charging stations. Community golf courses can be reduced and reintroduced as public open space with pedestrian-centered walking trails. Even, bike storage can be enhanced when properly integrated into urban transit nodes.

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The future of public realm needs to be more than merely accessible and convenient. But unlike urban centers designed during the industrial revolution, these oases will balance programming with naturalistic designs, more density of canopy, natural habitat for wildlife and trails for passive recreation. The conception, design, creation and redevelopment of our public realm will mirror existing strategies related to green and sustainable building, food production and sourcing and new urbanistic form as we adapt and innovative towards wellness-focused communities.

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Putting healthy living at the center of housing and neighborhood design, cities will look at revamping older parks or turning vacant land into pocket parks and social plazas. Well-defined outdoor spaces not only need to be multifaceted, experience-focused and user-centric, but intentionally bring positive health benefits and a total well-being lifestyle to residents. This requires a collective shift in our thinking where public realm and infrastructure are as important as immunizations; pocket parks, trails and gardens are as beneficial as prescriptions; and friends and neighbors are more important than Fitbits. With a flexible and exciting approach to environmental design, users will have the choice between a personal experience or one that creates a healthy sense of togetherness in reconnecting us to nature.

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Communities have been increasingly moving outdoors over the past few decades and that trend is now accelerating as people develop new preferences and usage for open spaces. The parks of tomorrow will be those that anticipate the new outdoor-friendly movement and respond with wellness enhancements that make those places more welcoming and rewarding than ever before. As partners in building a ‘well’ world, let’s keep the momentum moving forward. For more information reach out to us at [email protected].