An OU academic has been funded to research how urban gardens can help people to make sense of their lives and their environment.
Dr Jan van Duppen, Post-Doctoral Research Fellow in the OU’s Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, has been awarded a research fellowship grant of £89,000 by the Economic and Social Research Council for the Working the Playground: Urban Gardens and Sustainable Futures? project.
The research will focus on how people make sense of their lives and their urban environment through gardening in cities and it will study the complex field of everyday interactions between people, plants and animals, and further understanding of how ideas of work and play are formed and redefined in urban gardens.
Dr van Duppen will talk with urban gardeners, join in with their activities and observe what they do over a longer period of time. This in-depth engagement helps to make visible the rich embodied experience of cultivating an urban garden and sheds light on both the hard work of looking after a garden and the sensory and social play of this practice.
He will also work with muf architecture/art studio to influence urban policy making in London on themes of sustainability, community and the public realm. This collaboration with muf architecture/art, which as one of the Mayor’s Design Advocates has a role in delivering projects championed by the Greater London Authority (GLA), involves disseminating the research results of his PhD thesis and translating these findings into forms that can inform policy making processes. In addition, Dr van Duppen will visit the Chair for Urban Design and Urbanization at the Technische Universität Berlin to compare urban gardens in Berlin and London.
Throughout the fellowship, he will initiate crossovers between cultural geography, architecture, urban planning, local governance and urban gardeners. These interactions between academic and non-academic audiences will culminate in a workshop in November 2019.
Dr van Duppen said: “The fellowship will contribute to current debates on urban sustainable futures and the new London Plan and it will argue that allotment, community and guerrilla gardens do not just have an environmental impact, they are not just green spaces that contribute to the city’s biodiversity and cleaner air, but that they are specific sites of sociality as well."