What Your Neighbourhood Says About You

The city is always growing, diversifying and changing to meet the needs and wants of its residents. We see the city adjusting to satisfy the residents’ needs and future concerns by creating new public spaces like bike lanes and city parks – the most recent city proposal being Rail Deck Park, which will add an estimated 8.5 hectares of luscious green space in the city core.

The excitement and buzz surrounding this announcement is a testament to the growth and demands the city is facing. But with a constantly diversifying and increasing population, this generates challenges for urban planners and developers to create viable public spaces for residents.

Spaces around us have the ability to affect our psychological well-being. There are numerous benefits to going outside and enjoying the spaces available to us: stress reduction, physical activity and even an increase in brain function. According to theorist George E. McKechnie, there are eight ways people approach and respond to their environment. This theory, first introduced in the 1970s, is known as the Environmental Response Inventory.  Examining these eight different environmental response inventories is to look at how urban planners and developers are able to develop public spaces that meet the demands of an increasingly diverse population based on their values and needs.

McKechnie defines the Pastoral Inventory as individuals who feel deeply connected to their environment and enjoy the simplicity of being in nature. They are typically concerned with the destruction of the environment and do not enjoy city life. Those who deeply value the conservation of the environment may seek a refuge at the Scarborough Bluffs, a spacious protected park that can provide an escape from the bustling city life. The park is a hidden gem within the city with beautiful views of natural rock formations and visitors can also enjoy different parks, picnic spaces and trails that this park has to offer.

Those attracted to Urbanism value the bustling city life and love the splendor and awe of architecture. Downtown streets are full of action offering residents different dining and entertainment venues and experiences – there is always something to do in the core. It’s never a dull moment!

Another interesting Inventory that McKechnie defines is Environmental Adaption, where certain individuals believe that the environment should be designed with resident needs and comforts in mind, while protecting the benefits an area has to offer. Residents of the Beaches love the aura of their quiet and tranquil neighbourhood and when strolling through down the street, it’s like stepping into a time capsule. These modest residents do their best to keep the quiet nature of the area alive even with festivals, developments and breweries emerging.

According to the Stimulus Seeking Inventory, these individuals hold a deep importance for their environment and their psychological well-being, feeling most at home when out and about experiencing their environment. Humber River offers a variety of trails for those who seek outdoor activities while taking in the view around them Hikers, cyclists and rollerbladers can be seen daily whipping down these trails, especially by the water.

Environmental Well-Being, where individuals believe that modern technology does not have an effect on their psychological well-being, places a strong value on nostalgia surrounding their environment. Towns where residents have grown up as children and later live thereas adults, decide to live in that area to provide their future families with similar wonderful childhood memories.

Rosedale, Moore Park and Forest Hill best fit the definition of Environmental Security. According to McKechnie, this inventory is defined as individuals who care for their environment and want to keep it safe. They also tend to fear places that could lead to potential dangers. In these neighbourhoods we can find that residents are comprised mostly of families, ensuring they are living in a safe and secure area, for both themselves and their little ones.

Roncesvalles and Trinity Bellwoods comes to mind with the definition of Abstract Conservation. McKechnie suggests these individuals prefer an urban life but are anti-technology. They like to live green until they have to give up their luxuries. Young Millennials who are environmentally conscious but also want to enjoy the comforting luxuries that life has to offer, they tend to choose to areas like this when assessing their values towards their environment

Our last Environmental Response Inventory is Modernism, which is defined as individuals who prefer new institutions to historical buildings. They don’t really recognize the effects of their environment on their psychologically well-being. With the recent boom in new development, there are skyscrapers popping up all over the core, some replacing the rich historical buildings that once stood.

So with the city moving towards creating more viable public spaces, how would they be able to create a universal public space, such as the Rail Deck Park, that take into account the values residents hold when selecting their environment? What would you like to see happen based on your personal values?