The results deduced from the analysis of the data by NVivo are presented in two different levels: results from all areas (large scale) and results that arise from only one area (local scale).
3.3.1. Large Scale: Common Elements
Overall, the most referenced node was ‘activities’, where people stated that they usually went to the site to either walk, exercise or to walk their dog (Figure 6
). Contemplation of views was fairly popular as well, along with riding a bicycle. Other activities such as going to music events or sunbathing were barely mentioned.
The node ‘sensory perceptions’ was also rather well mentioned, with an overall positive aesthetic valorization of the sites (although a high percentage of respondents also made negative valorizations of certain aspects of the space), references to the views, and allusions to the temperature during the interview.
Among the principal UGI factors, respondents generally named aspects of the ‘social factor’, especially mentioning the impact of those spaces in community interaction and pointing out different age groups: “This is a good area for parents to bring their children, to have fun, to run a bit, because on the street they can’t” (SSI, area C).
The most alluded elements from the ‘economic factor’ were the ones referring to maintenance (whether it was poor or good), and in the ‘environmental factor’, people mostly mentioned nature and vegetation, the river (if there was one near the area), and whether there was any wildlife.
In terms of ‘place attachment’, participants referenced ‘place-based memories’, ‘place-based worries and concerns’, ‘pride and sense of belonging’ and ‘perception of the quality of life’ in similar proportion. Memories included stories about how the area used to be: “When I first came here, this was all industry [he says, pointing around]. All industry. And look at it now” (GA, area B), or how they have personally contributed to the development of the site: “I planted one of the first trees, so we’ve seen everything” (SSI, area C). Most memories led to a sense of belonging towards the place, associating it to a positive valorization of quality of life: “Having this here is a wonder. And I’m telling you, we use this a lot” (GA, area B).
References of ‘safety perception’ showed a predominant sense of tranquility and security over fear of accidents or of certain marginal social groups, although these concerns were mentioned, especially in area B. Most of the respondents also expressed their acknowledgement that security during the day varied from security at night.
The most mentioned grey infrastructures were roads and highways, along with power lines and electric substations, although some references to the train tracks also came up. Most of these comments were complaints about the presence of said infrastructures, although positive valorizations included comments on the connectivity that roads, highways and trains enabled.
Lastly, local accessibility was barely mentioned, although most of the comments included in this node mentioned the importance of being able to access the site on foot from their homes.
Go-Alongs vs. Semi-Structured Interviews
Differences in the approach and location of the interviews (go-alongs in UGI in transformation with a generally strong presence of grey infrastructures; semi-structured interviews in consolidated UGI with lookouts providing panoramic views of the surrounding landscape) have led to variations in the topics that emerge from each method (Figure 7
The main difference between nodes referenced in GAs and in SSIs is that, while the most mentioned node in GAs is ‘place attachment’, and, to a lesser extent, ‘activities’, in the SSIs, the most referenced ones are ‘activities’ and ‘sensory perception’, in a similar proportion, whereas ‘place attachment’ is barely metioned (Figure 8
The ‘social factor’ node is mentioned in a similar proportion in both types of interview, however, the references to the axial nodes embedded varied remarkably. In GAs, the principal axial nodes include ‘community interaction’ and ‘negative social justice’, bringing up criticism towards the management of the space and problems arising from gentrification: “They want the people who live here to no longer have enough money to live here” (GA, area A). There are a few references to the negative impact of grey infrastructures (power lines and substations) on physical health: “We’ve been dealing with this cable problem for 30 years. When they pushed the most was when many cases of tumors appeared, cancer cases...” (GA, area A). Participants of GAs also mention the positive impact of green spaces on physical health, as these are open spaces available for people to walk. However, no GA participant commented on the effect on mental health. On the other hand, this very topic, ‘impact on mental health’ is the most cited axial node of the ‘social factor’ in SSIs. Moreover, people have a positive valorization of the impact these spaces have on their mental health, so they decide to go there in search for a place of calm and peacefulness: “It’s a place to disconnect, which brings peace of mind” (SSI, area B). Interviewees in SSIs also mentioned the positive impact of the UGI on physical health, and the difference in activities and areas available, depending on the age group.
Comments on the context were more predominant in GAs, particularly neighborhood references and mentions of landmarks. Some of the participants also noticed a city-countryside relation within the site, depending on the area of study. In SSIs, mentions of landmarks are few and limited to those linked to the views of the city. Comments mainly focused on how the UGI had a positive effect on the neighborhood: “It is a break, for the neighborhood. It brings life. For me it’s essential” (SSI, area C).
Although the proportion of references towards ‘safety perception’ was similar in both types of interview, the content was very different. Whereas in SSIs, there was a general agreement on a positive sense of security: “We’ve never had any incident or any feeling of insecurity” (SSI, area C), most of these comments in GAs referred to a fear of both accidents or social groups: “Well, there used to be a gypsy village there. It’s been removed now. There was trouble, with drugs and such...” (GA, area B); “It’s not a question of aesthetics anymore, it’s just that there are a lot of trees around... you know. Anything can happen, it’s a risk” (GA, area A), referring to the presence of overhead electric cables and pylons.
These abovementioned grey infrastructures were mostly mentioned during the GAs, as the walks often occurred near highways, train tracks or electrical substations. Most of the references were focused on power lines, stating their concerns and worries associated with them: “I think they should take it down, don’t you? It gives a lot of electricity” (GA, area C). On the other hand, in SSIs, participants mainly acknowledged roads and highways, as they were visible from the places where the interviews were conducted. Most of the comments focused on the contrast between green space and transport infrastructure, considering the former a solution towards the impact and problems associated with the latter.
The ‘environmental factor’ is referenced in a similar form in both types of interviews, with nature and vegetation being the most mentioned elements, as well as comments on ‘connectivity’, particularly referencing existing connections between other green spaces in the city and peri-urban areas.
3.3.2. Local Scale: Comparison between Areas
Conducting on-site interviews in three specific areas contained in the south-east arch of the urban fringe of Madrid has brought up certain common topics and issues, strongly linked to the ongoing problematics of the peri-urban landscape. However, comparing the results obtained in each area can also draw some light on how specific characteristics of each peri-urban site impact the perception and narrative of the locals. The presence and proximity to certain grey infrastructures, the connectivity between green spaces, or the sense of security, become crucial in understanding how locals perceive and use the public space and, in particular, the UGI.
The landscape of this highly populated area on the south-west border of the Municipality of Madrid is composed of high-rise residential blocks (mainly from the 1970s), the A-5 highway crossing though, and an array of pylons and cables to and from the electric substation. The aging population in this area becomes patent during on-site observation; participants are all over 50 years old and have lived in this area for decades. As mentioned in Section 2.2
, the area will soon be subject to large-scale changes in terms of the relation with the highway crossing through, possibly providing an opportunity to improve the current condition of the UGI.
Go-along interviews were conducted in the abovementioned area. During the interviews, participants shared many facts and observations on the changes in the landscape: how it used to look, what they used to do in it… as well as showing strong feelings of collective mistrust (as neighbors) towards government and large energy corporations. Participants mentioned how neighbors feel a lack of social justice since these infrastructures (mainly electric) are so visible and close to their everyday activities; more so since they consider their landscape as purely urban, residential, and part of the city.
The strong presence of the highway not only entails noise and high levels of pollution, but also causes an important urban barrier between two areas of the neighborhood, forcing locals to cross over or under it, using passageways that foster feelings of insecurity and have led to conflicts with certain social groups. On the other hand, positive comments concentrated especially on the proximity to (and connectivity with) the protected green space of Casa de Campo, on the views from the highest topographical spot of the park, and on place-based memories of certain activities and feelings, many of which were expressed with nostalgia.
Analysis of interviews (GA) carried out in area A using NVivo software shows most references on ‘place attachment’ and ‘context’, followed by ‘social factor’ and ‘activities’ (Figure 9
). As stated in Section 2.3
, nodes are analysis categories that the research team assigns to parts of the interview transcripts for their analysis. These nodes or categories are determined by a group of key words, synonyms and/or expressions on a certain topic. Though longer interviews will obviously provide more time for the interviewee to mention a greater number of nodes, this is not always the case. The ‘productivity’ of the interviews in terms of duration and number of references to nodes is later discussed in Section 4
, considering the results obtained for all three areas:
Within the concept of ‘place attachment’, most comments are place-based worries and concerns, though there are also a significant number of place-based memories, as well as (in slightly less amount) comments expressing pride, sense of belonging and perception of quality of life. “The problems we have here. This neighborhood… should be on the television! For all the issues it has” (GA).
Within the ‘context’ node, there are mainly neighborhood references, some comments on specific landmarks, and barely any historical reference. “There is a spot up there with wonderful views of the mountain range and of Madrid… I go up there sometimes because the views are awesome. […] If the day is clear, you can even see the planes landing in the airport. It’s really far, but you can see it perfectly” (GA).
Within the concept of ‘social factor’, references were made mainly in terms of community interaction and negative perceptions of social justice. “Yes, well… you can’t fight against that. There have been demonstrations, protests here… but the companies are very powerful and there’s nothing we can do. […] But hey, the neighborhood is nice. And it has this [pointing towards the green space of Casa de Campo]. This is a green lung that’s priceless. I come here every day. I take a walk, then I meet with some friends, we play cards or something…” (GA).
The most mentioned activity is walking, which is coherent with the fact that only GAs were conducted in this area. Surprisingly, cycling was barely mentioned, even though several cyclists passed by us during the GAs, and that the green cyclist belt cuts through the area, crossing over the highway and connecting the two green spaces of Cuña Verde Latina and Casa de Campo.
In slightly less proportion than the four nodes mentioned above, interesting references were made by participants in area A in terms of ‘sensory perceptions’, ‘safety perceptions’ and ‘grey infrastructures’. The following quote, for instance, brings these three concepts together when referring to local opposition towards electric pylons and overhead cables, so strongly present in the landscape: “It’s been a fight. Because it’s not only harmful to the eye, it’s a health issue. But there is nothing to do about it. It makes no sense that they’re here, so deep in the city. They pass really close to some buildings” (GA).
Amongst the most frequently used words for this area, we find ‘years’, ‘look’, ‘neighbors’, ‘neighborhood’, ‘people’, ‘highway’, ‘electric’ and ‘home’. These are coherent with the age group of the participants in the area and their willingness to share stories and impressions on the past and present landscape. These most repeated words are also coherent with the fact that these participants have lived in the area for a long time, hence sharing place-based memories, and showing a strong sense of community among neighbors who share common concerns regarding the unavoidable presence and proximity of certain grey infrastructures.
The landscape of this very heterogeneous area on the southern border of the Municipality of Madrid is strongly defined by industrial uses and large grey infrastructure (highways, train tracks, electrical substations, sports facilities, water treatment plants, etc.). Residential areas of various characters are scattered along the west side of the UGI where field work was conducted. This UGI, articulated along the river Manzanares in its urban and peri-urban section, has proven to be highly valued by the locals; participants in this area expressed interest in the different phases of this project (biodiversity, maintenance, etc.), which is still in transformation on its south end, and value especially “the countryside feel” while still being “so close to the city.” This city-countryside relationship is strengthened especially since it is both walkable and cyclable from Madrid Río.
The analysis of the interviews (SSIs and GAs) carried out in area B using NVivo software shows most references on ‘activities’, followed closely by ‘social factor’, ‘context’ and ‘sensory perceptions’ (Figure 10
In terms of ‘activities’, the four main ones were walking, exercising, walking a dog and riding a bicycle. “I usually cross this bridge. If you continue straight along, it’ll take you to Madrid Río. I sometimes see people come from there, especially on bicycles. It’s really great that you can come all the way from downtown” (GA).
Within ‘social factor’, an array of references to age groups, community interaction, and positive impact on mental and physical health are collected, as well as some on education, social media and social justice. “I sometimes see journalists coming here, taking pictures… And now, in the summer, there are families, though it’s not too hot yet. Lots of kids” (SSI). “It’s super green now, after the rain… it’s beautiful. I sometimes take selfies here, to make my colleagues at work jealous. I tell them, ‘Hey, look, this is for you.’ And they say, ‘Don’t send us that, we’re so jealous!’” (GA).
The node ‘context’ contains many neighborhood references, however, the amount of comments on city-countryside relations is very significant. “From here, thanks to the views, you feel like you are both here and in Madrid” (SSI). “This is beautiful… It’s like being in the middle of the countryside!” (GA). “I feel like I’m not in the city, like I’m not in Madrid” (SSI).
Within ‘sensory perceptions’, references by locals in this area are mainly positive aesthetic valorizations and comments on views and temperature.
In addition to the abovementioned, we find a relevant amount of references to the ‘economic factor’, ‘environmental factor’, and ‘place attachment’ nodes. While comments on good and bad management of the UGI compose most of the references to the ‘economic factor’, the ‘environmental factor’ in this area has acquired a larger dimension, mainly thanks to the presence of the river. “The river has changed a lot, yes. They’ve taken great care of it now. They’ve put bicycles, paths to walk… much better” (GA). This UGI has been planned in phases, some of which are still in transformation. Therefore, depending on where we carried out the field work, we found more or less consolidation of the paths and vegetation. “Maintenance in this area is good. The part where we live is still not done, though” (SSI).
Amongst the most frequently used words for this area, we find ‘park’, ‘good’, ‘river’, ‘people’, ‘look’, ‘city’, ‘country’ and ‘Madrid’, coherent with an overall positive valorization of the UGI, a clear appreciation for natural elements, and the importance of connectivity from the city-center to the area of study.
In this area, located on the east border of the Municipality of Madrid, we find strong differences in the landscape depending on which side of the UGI we visit. The consolidated park (closer to the city center, designed for leisure and enjoyment, and provided with a viewpoint that offers panoramic views of the surrounding) contrasts with the landscape at the east side, strongly bounded by freight train tracks, large highway intersections, and wastelands, yet to be built.
This contrast has consequently manifested itself in the interviews; while GAs were conducted on the east side, next to the wasteland, an electric substation, and industrial premises, the SSIs were conducted around the viewpoint of the most consolidated park, closer to the city. Overall, participants in the GAs showed indifference towards the environment they were walking through: “There’s nothing interesting here, right?” (GA), as well as powerlessness in terms of making it better: “They used to say they were going to put a park here. But in the end, nothing. What can we do? Nobody can do anything about this. Not me, not you, probably” (GA). Conversely, the SSIs collected the most positive comments overall, especially in terms of healthy and enjoyable practices: “Happy. I come here to bring him (the dog) because he stresses out in the street” and “Freedom. I also come to do some exercise. I would define it as freedom and a healthy habit” (SSIs).
The analysis of the interviews (SSIs and GAs) carried out in area C using NVivo software shows a strong predominance of references to ‘activities’, followed by ‘sensory perceptions’, ‘social factor’ and ‘safety perception’ (Figure 11
In terms of ‘activities’, the most frequently mentioned are walking, exercising and walking a dog, followed by contemplation and others (in less proportion): “It’s quiet, you can exercise. That’s important for a park. The mountain views, there are areas for kids…” (SSI).
‘Sensory perceptions’ are mainly referencing views and positive aesthetic valorizations, which are often linked to activities carried out in the park: “It’s an added value for the park. It’s nice to come see the sunset. Yesterday, for example, there was a concert here in the evening, and there were a lot of people watching the sunset” (SSI).
‘Social factor’ contains most references towards positive impact on mental health (from the park), followed by negative impact on physical health (from the electric substation): “There are other neighbors with other problems, and maybe it has something to do with this. Because it’s radiation, right? We don’t like it, truly. We don’t like it because it’s very close to the houses. Too close” (GA), and in less proportion, positive impact on physical health (also from the park): “Green areas, I think, are essential for the neighborhood. It’s a very large place to escape. It’s a relief. It’s great, truly. It brings a lot of life” (SSI).
‘Safety perception’ collects many positive references, in terms of tranquility, sense of security, or safety perception thanks to surveillance.
For this area, the most frequently used words of the transcripts do not seem to reflect any element or valorization specific to this site. We find words such as ‘park’, ‘city’, ‘neighborhood’, or ‘good’; all of which could refer to any UGI in any given city. This could be because there are two very contrasting landscapes and perceptions depending on where the field work was carried out. However, it could also infer that there are no distinctive elements, symbols, landmarks, or practices in this UGI which participants thought relevant to mention, as opposed to those of areas A and B.