‘The Lungs of the City’: health, sustainability and resilience in the globalised urban park (1800-2015)


  • Dr Karen Jones

    University of Kent

Project summary

By 2050, 70% of people will be city dwellers. Interrogating issues about urban recovery and resilience, 'The Lungs of the City' will demonstrate the extent to which nature can shape human wellbeing in an age of profound environmental change. Combining environmental history with medical humanities, this project will track the city park across a global landscape using guiding themes of sustainability and wellbeing. Based on the idea of cities as metabolic systems or ‘bodies’, it will investigate three cities – London, Delhi and Shanghai – to chart how green space has contributed to urban sustainability, environmental knowledge and community health since 1800.

As critical sites in our urban ecology, parks reveal how resilient cities have been built, maintained and can inform policy and development today. Emphasis will be placed on deconstructing the park as a medicalised landscape and in tracing the park 'ideal' from global north to south. We will ask how and why parks are good for us, how they have evolved over time and what lessons they can provide in an era of rapid environmental change.

We will develop new research using case studies and develop a fresh methodology on transnational urban history/health landscapes, and build a parks life network harnessing cross-disciplinary expertise.