Mingling, observing, and lingering: Everyday public spaces and their implications for well-being and social relations

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The rejuvenation of public spaces is a key policy concern in the UK. Drawing on a wide literature and on qualitative research located in a multi-ethnic area of East London, this paper explores their relationship to well-being and social relations. It demonstrates that ordinary spaces are a significant resource for both individuals and communities. The beneficial properties of public spaces are not reducible to natural or aesthetic criteria, however. Social interaction in spaces can provide relief from daily routines, sustenance for people's sense of community, opportunities for sustaining bonding ties or making bridges, and can influence tolerance and raise people's spirits. They also possess subjective meanings that accumulate over time and can contribute to meeting diverse needs. Different users of public spaces attain a sense of well- being for different reasons: the paper calls for policy approaches in which the social and therapeutic properties of a range of everyday spaces are more widely recognised and nurtured.

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