Improving the quality of public open spaces in Hama, Syria: an investigation through the social spatial approach
The extensive literature on public open space illustrates that it is of great importance to the quality of life. This is particularly true in Syria where public open spaces play a critical role in the urban structure of cities and in the inhabitant’s daily existence. There is published evidence that improving the quality of public open spaces requires a comprehensive analysis of these spaces in order to be able to evaluate their quality. This thesis is concerned with investigating and evaluating public open spaces in Hama, Syria both in terms of the quality of the spaces themselves and the process of creating and managing these spaces in order to offer suggestions for improving the quality of life in Hama through improving the quality of its spaces. The research strategy, the social spatial approach, involves understanding the investigative context as: (a) a social phenomenon, by exploring the residents’ perceptions, professionals’ perceptions and users’ behaviour, (b) a spatial phenomenon, by exploring the physical and spatial structure of Hama. The research adopts a case study method choosing three parks as examples for their distinctive features, and a range of different qualitative and quantitative techniques are applied systematically to these parks and their wider context. These techniques comprised: a questionnaire survey with residents in Hama; observation and behavioural mapping in the parks; semi-structured interviews with professionals involved in the design and management process; land use and urban form surveys; space syntax applied at micro and macro scale; and a desk-top study of documents. The findings of the evaluation illustrate that the qualities of the three selected parks could be enhanced. In addition, they show the there is scope for a participatory process of design and management to ensure that the final delivery of new parks and the development of existing ones meet the users’ expectations. The research draws a number of conclusions, which are developed into a set of general recommendations. Two of the key suggestions are (a) the provision of good quality public facilities which meet residents’ needs in the parks (b) the provision of training programmes by Hama City Council for those involved in the development and delivery process of public open spaces. Both are vital if the quality of the public open spaces is to be improved.