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“I'm always entirely happy when I'm here!” Urban blue enhancing human health and well-being in Cologne and Düsseldorf, Germany


  • Völker, Sebastian
  • Kistemann, Thomas


Water is one of the most important landscape elements. In settled areas, planners rediscovered urban blue in the form of rivers as a soft location factor in post-industrial times. Although the recognition of the need for recreational or ‘healthy’ places like urban green or urban blue in cities is increasing, current urban planning is mostly conducted without taking beneficial health issues into account. In this paper an extended concept of therapeutic landscapes is used to analyse two promenades on the river Rhine in the centres of two German cities (Cologne and Düsseldorf). A complex of qualitative and quantitative methods from diverse disciplines is applied to obtain a multi-dimensional image of salutogenic health processes. The results show that the promenades are favourite places to spend leisure time and to engage in recreational activities, in addition to providing restoration from everyday stresses. Water is a strong predictor of preference and positive perceptive experiences in urban environments. Users of the promenades also report strong emotional attachments to the place. Urban blue space may be interpreted as a therapeutic landscape in various ways. The study forms a contribution to planning issues, particularly considering benefits for human health, and enhances current research concerning therapeutic landscapes.

Suggested Citation

  • Völker, Sebastian & Kistemann, Thomas, 2013. "“I'm always entirely happy when I'm here!” Urban blue enhancing human health and well-being in Cologne and Düsseldorf, Germany," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 78(C), pages 113-124.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:78:y:2013:i:c:p:113-124
    DOI: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2012.09.047

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    6. repec:aph:ajpbhl:2002:92:5:758-768_3 is not listed on IDEAS
    7. Williams, Allison, 2010. "Spiritual therapeutic landscapes and healing: A case study of St. Anne de Beaupre, Quebec, Canada," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 70(10), pages 1633-1640, May.
    8. Riva, Mylene & Curtis, Sarah & Gauvin, Lise & Fagg, James, 2009. "Unravelling the extent of inequalities in health across urban and rural areas: Evidence from a national sample in England," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 68(4), pages 654-663, February.
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    Cited by:

    1. Bradbury-Jones, Caroline & Taylor, Julie & Herber, Oliver, 2014. "How theory is used and articulated in qualitative research: Development of a new typology," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 120(C), pages 135-141.
    2. Houghton, Frank & Houghton, Sharon, 2015. "Therapeutic micro-environments in the Edgelands: A thematic analysis of Richard Mabey's The Unofficial Countryside," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 133(C), pages 280-286.
    3. Bell, Sarah L. & Phoenix, Cassandra & Lovell, Rebecca & Wheeler, Benedict W., 2015. "Seeking everyday wellbeing: The coast as a therapeutic landscape," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 142(C), pages 56-67.
    4. Elliott, Lewis R. & White, Mathew P. & Taylor, Adrian H. & Herbert, Stephen, 2015. "Energy expenditure on recreational visits to different natural environments," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 139(C), pages 53-60.


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