Where does community grow? The social context created by nature in urban public housing

Rebekah Levine Coley, Frances E. Kuo, William C. Sullivan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study examines how the availability of nature influences the use of outdoor public spaces in two Chicago public housing developments. Ninety-six observations were collected of the presence and location of trees and the presence and location of youth and adults in semiprivate spaces at one high-rise and one low-rise public housing development. Results consistently indicated that natural landscaping encourages greater use of outdoor areas by residents. Spaces with trees attracted larger groups of people, as well as more mixed groups of youth and adults, than did spaces devoid of nature. In addition, more dense groupings of trees and trees that are located close to public housing buildings attracted larger groups of people. These findings suggest that natural elements such as trees promote increased opportunities for social interactions, monitoring of outdoor areas, and supervision of children in impoverished urban neighborhoods.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)468-494
Number of pages27
JournalEnvironment and Behavior
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1997

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Environmental Science


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