Episode 05

Whose Parks? Our Parks!

We’ve been working up to this one all series. They’re the public spaces that show off in plain sight: PARKS! Eunice, Erika, Lauren, and friends of Inhabit take a snowy walk through Eunice’s neighborhood park and then dive deep with public park advocates Adri Stark and Wes Reibeling about designing for dignity and Toronto’s oldest openly queer park space. Also: pigeon fixing.

Show Notes

This season, most of our recordings and interviews take place in Toronto, whose name originates from the Mohawk word Tkaronto, meaning “the place in the water where the trees are standing.”

We acknowledge the land we are meeting on is the traditional territory of many nations, including the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishnabeg, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee, and the Wendat peoples, and is now home to many diverse First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples. We also acknowledge that Toronto is covered by Treaty 13 with the Mississaugas of the Credit.

The Meadoway

One of the largest linear urban parks in Canada, The Meadoway is a 16-kilometre long hydro corridor – yes, the ones with the high-voltage transmission towers! – that has been transformed into a lush greenspace and meadowland with a multi-use trail. The Meadoway links 7 river systems, 15 parks, 16 kilometres of trails, 13 neighbourhoods, 200 hectares of meadows, and over 1,000 speces of flora and fauna!  

Perkins&Will led the inclusive, public engagement process for The Meadoway, including a variety of experiential elements to help build excitement, collect feedback from community, and direct outreach with school children and other residents in the field. 

Park Design as Predictors of Gentrification

According to Rigolon and Nemeth, park location and function are predictors of gentrification, especially greenway or linear parks with trails (lookin’ at you 606 in Chicago and the High Line in New York City). In terms of location, the study indicates that parks closer to downtowns spur gentrification more than those located on the periphery. In this study, the size of the park didn’t matter. 

“Planners must account for broader economic forces and market questions when making decisions about parks and other environmental infrastructure.” 

Ravines are Parks too! 

One thing we have not talked enough about this season is Toronto’s ravine system! They are called the green lungs of the city! 

The ravines were formed after the last ice age when receding glaciers left valleys. The winding rivers and forests are 30 times the size of Central Park in NY.  A 2017 study found that Toronto’s ravines provide over $800 million in services every year from nature-based recreation, avoided health care costs due to inactivity, and reduced rates of depression. Lots of benefits! 


The City Beautiful Movement is one of the many movements in architecture and urban planning in North America, mostly around the late 19th early 20th centuries. Its goal was to introduce beautification into urban environments, especially in a time when cities were perceived to be ugly, dirty, and congested. 

One of the first displays of this movement was at the 1893 World’s Columbia Exposition in Chicago, where Daniel Burnham’s “White City” template was presented for a “new American city”. It was a combination of neoclassical structures, parks, and grand civic spaces, to create a vision of progress and social harmony,  

Shout out to Jane Jacobs again, who criticized the City Beautiful movement for focusing too much on aesthetics at the expense of people and communities. The movement became an excuse to move forward with slum clearance and displacement. Its intent to promote utopian ideals and inspire civic responsibility led to reinforcing urban inequalities.  

In the United States… 

The National Recreation and Park Association documented that segregation of parks and recreation spaces persisted after the Civil Rights Act of 1964, with city pools filled with concrete instead of integrating them, and the rise of private recreation facilities – a system very much still in practice today. An article from NC State College of Natural Resources also documents the persistent discrimination in today’s American Parks. Examples like the Ping Tom Memorial Park in Chicago, highlight that displacement of parks due to highway construction can be devastating, but do not have to be permanent. Ongoing advocacy is needed to reckon with past policies and decisions.  

Health Research 

Public health studies have been done on urban greenspace and vegetation, including parks, gardens, yards, urban forests and urban farms. 

  • Overall Health: A 2018 Review Paper found consistent and strong evidence that higher greenness was associated with better physical activity, birth weight, depression as well as lower mortality rates. 
  • Maternal Health: This 2017 Review Paper looked at 14 studies reviewing the association between greenness and maternal and infant health. Many of the studies are cross-sectional, so further research is needed. 
  • Depression: In a study of nearly 40,000 older women (age range: 54-91), researchers found that living in areas with high levels of greenness was associated with reductions in depression risk. 
  • Child Health: In a study of 2,472 children in Spain, found that great proximity to greenspaces and increased surrounding greenness was associated with lower risk of bronchitis and wheeze, respectively. 
  • Student Performance: A 2017 study in Massachusetts found that small increases in greenness surrounding schools were associated with reductions in chronic absenteeism. 
  • Health Disparities: In a cross-sectional study of 496 U.S. cities, researchers found, “cities with greater percentages of non-Hispanic Whites showed links between higher tree cover and lower obesity but marginal relationships between higher greenness and lower obesity. In subsample analyses with majority-non-Hispanic Black cities, higher tree cover was associated with lower obesity and better mental health.” 

Environmental Quality Research 

There are environmental benefits associated with greater greenness (trees, plants) instead of hard, impermeable surfaces. 

  • Stormwater management: This EPA guide highlights how partnerships between park agencies and storm water agencies can better support the development and funding of green infrastructure to optimize the environmental, social, and economic impacts of parks. It includes a step-wise approach, recommendations, case studies and additional resources. 
  • Urban heat island: The American Planning Guide provide a great brief on “How cities use Parks for Climate Change Management”, with a particular focus on urban heat island mitigation.  
  • Climate change: A 2022 report from The Trust for Public Land, found that of the 100 most populous cities in the United States: 
  • 85% of cities were adapting parks and recreation facilities to address climate change.  
  • 80% were enlisting parks to counter urban heat.  
  • 76% were improving surfaces to reduce flooding and runoff from rains. 
  • But this study also found that when neighborhoods were mostly made up of residents who identify as people of color they had on average 43% less park acreage than predominantly white neighborhoods.  

Gentrification and Greenness 

This research discusses how park locations disproportional benefit predominantly white neighborhoods, and proposes that a small, scattered approach can mitigate gentrification. 

Adri Stark is a project manager at Park People, a national charity that helps people activate the power of parks. She is co-author of Park People’s Canadian City Parks Report—an annual publication that explores park trends, challenges, and leading practices based on a survey of municipalities across the country. 

Like our Perkins&Will colleague Dahmahlee Lawrence, whose series on Dignity in Design just launched in the AIA Dallas publication Columns, Adri thinks that designing for dignity starts with process. In this episode, she calls out 4 aspects of Designing for Dignity as a response to Defensive Designs: 

  1. Meeting Basic Needs: There is infrastructure in place to be able to support people’s basic needs, like shelter, and using the washroom, drinking water and hygiene.
  2. Balancing Safety & Privacy: Jane Jacobs, iconic urbanist, coined the phrase “eyes on the street”, but that can be really uncomfortable for someone who’s trying to carry out their very private everyday functions in public space. And so we heard that people are actually looking for moments of privacy in the public realm. And that goes against like, everything you learn in your textbooks like cities. Most cities use an approach called ‘Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design’ that prioritizes things like open sightlines. For example, pruning bushes to ensure there’s visibility between people at like every place in a park. And we heard that that’s the opposite of what makes people who are sheltering in public space feel safe. 
  3. Fostering Community: These are rare spaces where you can find a business person and someone sleeping in a tent. We have this opportunity to create little icebreaker moments, whether that’s through like an interactive piece of public art or some programming in the park that can help people sort of get to know each other face to face and build relationships with Folks who have vastly different life experiences than them. 
  4. Centering Harm Reduction: There is so much fascinating research out there that it requires its own episode, but you will never look at public restrooms the same after you dive in. 

Wesley Lincoln Reibeling (he/him) is a multidisciplinary artist, public speaker, and urban professional with a passion for community building, collaborative design, parks, public space, and queer cities. Wesley Reibeling is co-chair of the Jane’s Walk Global Steering Committee alongside his work at Park People as the Program Manager of Toronto Networks and Partnerships. He sits on the advisory board at Urbanminds and the Community First Equity Toolkit Committee at the High Line Network. Wesley is a is a member of the Global Queer Storytelling Congress, alongside other LGBTQ+ placemakers which launched in Mexico City in 2023. Wesley holds a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre Studies from York University and a Community Engagement Certificate from Toronto Metropolitan University. Outside of the city-building sphere, Wes’ art practices centers on civic engagement, participatory design, community-building, queer joy and belonging in cities.  

Wes recommends checking out Jane’s Walk Festival, a global celebration of Jane Jacobs offering free citizen-led walking conversations in May. Find your city here 

In 2023, Park People released the Canadian City Parks Report – a treasure trove of statistics and insights, focused on getting deep into some of the most pressing issues like climate crisis or homelessness. 

  • <50% of cities collect data on perceptions of park “quality” 
  • ONLY 20% of cities collect data on socio-demographic identities of park visitors, highlighting a gap in understanding parkgoers’ experiences. 
  • 74% of cities said addressing systemic inequities and discrimination in parks is a challenge, but ONLY 59% classified it as a minor rather than major challenge.  
  • 84% of city residents believe people experience parks differently based on aspects of their identity, like age, gender, race, or culture—a slight increase from 77% in 2021 and 2022. 

Need Data? 

  • Ever wondered about the conditions of your trees in your neighborhood? Tree Equity Score highlights environmental inequities in tree distribution common to cities and towns all across the U.S. Developed by American Forests, Tree Equity Score establishes an equity-first standard to guide investment in critical urban tree infrastructure, starting with neighborhoods with the greatest need. 
  • Interested in exploring the quantity of surrounding greenness in your community? NASA provides satellite data in 16-day intervals so you can see variations over time. Using spectroradiometer, you can understand the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) and the Enhanced Vegetation Index (EVI). 

The first ever Pride picnic in Toronto was held on August 1, 1971, at Hanlan’s Point Beach, organized by the Community Homophile Association of Toronto and Toronto Gay Action. At that time, there were not many safe and open spaces for queer folks in the city. Since then, Hanlan’s has continued to be an important gathering spot for the 2SLGBTQ+ community in Toronto.  

In recent years, a plan was revealed by Toronto City Council for the island that could include open-air events and festival spaces at Hanlan’s, potentially putting the queer beach under threat of erasure or redevelopment.  

In response, a large public advocacy group and movement, dubbed “Friends of Hanlan’s”, rallied together to hold the City accountable in the engagement process. After this outcry and grassroots advocacy, the City proceeded to halt the plan to create space and forums for community folks to express their concerns. Together, with Friends of Hanlan’s, the City is working to collaborate with the queer community to better acknowledge the deep histories of this space. In June of 2023, City Council passed with unanimous support a motion “Critical Measures to Restore Ecology and Preserve the History of Hanlan’s Point Beach and Surrounding Area”, which called for major improvements and protections for the beach including the area where the first Pride gathering took place, and cultural markers to recognize the history of the space. 

Other queer urban shorelines like Hanlan’s, Riis Beach in New York City, or Belmont Rocks in Chicago all face similar threats, mostly climate change, erosion, and urban redevelopment. 

“Engaging subaltern groups in the design process is still not happening as much as it should be, and I feel that it’s tough to track when/where it is happening.”Alexa Vaughn 

Alexa is a Deaf landscape designer and accessibility specialist, a PhD student in Architecture and Urban Design at UCLA, Fellow of the American Academy in Rome (with the Rome Prize in Landscape Architecture, 2022-2023), and was awarded the Landscape Architecture Foundation Fellowship in Innovation and Leadership (2020-2021). 

The disability rights movement is ongoing, but the context is informative of other important inclusivity movements. It has been over thirty years since the Americans with Disability Act (ADA) was passed but still “Noting for us, without us” rings true. More design research is needed on disability inclusion since many experiences are not accounted for by ADA. 

Examples that Inspire: 

  • DeafSpace is an online platform that includes a process on how to better include disabled people in the design process. Created by Alexa Vaughn and implemented in Eugene, Oregon for Eugene Town Square. 
  • The People’s Park in Denmark has a rich, complex history. After decades of unrest, violence, and decaying structures, a new park was slated to be developed. The engagement process for the first re-design aimed at capturing all user’s perspectives to support local ownership – even those who were seen as doing things that were “undesirable.” Their goal was not to design certain “undesirable” activities or people out but create a space where everyone could mind their own businesses and live their lives. What they also found was the people who others thought were doing “undesirable things” weren’t actually doing those things, so the process really tore down misperceptions and misunderstandings within the community.  

This episode features music from Epidemic Sound

Flute Alors” by La Boucle

Without a Doubt” by Blue Topaz

Everyday Bliss” by Mica Emory


Inhabit Series 3 Episode 5: “Whose Parks? Our Parks!”

[Low subsonic rumble, slosh of a bus passing on wet streets, whir of airplane overhead; dog barks; birds]

Erika Eitland: Hey Inhabit listeners. Today we are starting [“Flute Alors“ (flute stem) by La Boucle / Epidemic Sound cues in. Dog barks.] with a collective deep breath. 

[Erika’s voice floats in: “We’re going through the gateway into this beautiful giant snowy park…”]

Eunice Wong: Breathe in. [“Flute Alors” flute vibrates. Footsteps tromp through the snow.] Breathe out. [Flute continues. Dog barks. Lauren’s voice floats in: “Hey Eunice, will you take a quick pic of the dog bowl?” Eunice: “Yeah.” Lauren: “Please?”]

Erika Eitland: I’m Dr. Erika Eitland. I’m a public health scientist.

[Flute continues. Man’s voice floats in.] 

Eunice Wong: I’m Eunice Wong. And I’m an urban designer.

[Flute continues. Eunice’s voice floats in: “Chaos ensues.” Their partner, Daniel Hopper, replies: “A little bit of chaos. Yeah.” Tromping through snow. Lauren: “Ooh! We’ve got some toboganners here!” Children laugh and squeal. Slide of a sled slips down a hill. Flute ascends to a high note. Child’s voice echoes: “Everyone over here!” Over here! Over here!]

Erika Eitland: Research has found that being in nature improves mood and cognitive function. [Children’s play continues. Flute descends from high note in staccato puffs of air.] Even listening to birdsongs and flowing water has been shown to enhance attention, reduce stress, and improve working memory.

[Flute descends to land on a low note. Tromping and children’s play continues.] 

Eunice Wong: In a season dedicated to public space in my hometown of Toronto. We naturally needed to talk about parks. [Flute vibratos.] So Erika, what do you think when I say “park”?

Erika Eitland: Well, I think this is me being from the northeast, but I think of the iconic Central Park or the High Line in New York City. These are just oases amongst the buildings and traffic that create opportunities for friendship, romance, rest, physical activity … [Children laughing.] But I’m curious from you—like, don’t give me a nerd response [Eunice laughs]—as an urban designer, what does “park” mean?

Eunice Wong: Fine. I’ll save that for later. But [flute vibratos] for me, I think of Trinity Bellwoods in Toronto, you know, a classic Toronto destination. And we actually walked through that together last year, Erika. 

[Cuts to Trinity Bellwoods soundscape. Flute continues]

Lauren Neefe: Daniel, tell me where we are right now.

Daniel Hopper: We are in Trinity Bellwoods Park, situated between Queen and Dundas—

Eunice Wong: And it’s,it’s definitely the best from, you know, a people-watching perspective—

Erika Eitland: Mmmm. 

Daniel Hopper: It’s a lot more busy in the summer, but, um, a destination for people to play tennis and hockey as well. But—

Lauren Neefe: Is anyone playing hockey right now? 

Daniel Hopper: Probably not. I think it’s a little bit too warm for that.

Eunice Wong: So in the summers, you’ll have people’s Bluetooth speakers blasting in different pockets around the park, glasses clinking for celebrations, teens going to swim practice, kids in the splash pad, and, like, always some guy doing acrobatics, like always.

Lauren Neefe: Tell me what you see.

Daniel Hopper: I see people walking their dogs. I see people out for a walk on this nice sunny but snowy day. The benches are all relatively full. Um

Lauren Neefe: How much snow is on the ground? 

Daniel Hopper: Lots. Do we have an American audience or a Canadian?

Lauren Neefe: Um, Canadian. 

Daniel Hopper: [chuckles] We’ve got about 15 centimeters of snow on the ground.

Eunice Wong: You have bros playing spike ball—a classic—and just like an abundance of dogs. So so many dogs.

[Muffled conversation and sloshing through the snow. Flute descends and slows to a murmur.] 

Erika Eitland: Honestly, we were in the middle of winter, and so I saw, like, mad sledding but not the whole experience. But I do think this is a true example of a third space—

Daniel Hopper: Trinity Bellwoods isdefinitely our local park. Yeah. 

Lauren Neefe: Cool. Thank you, Daniel.

Daniel Hopper: Of course!

Erika Eitland: —so a place that we can enjoy that’s not our home or our work.

Eunice Wong: Look at you with the terminology: “third space.”

Erika Eitland: I know.I’m growing. I’m learning the lingo. I mean, How long do you need to hang out with designers before you get to say things like that? 

[Flute cues in a loud descending arpeggio and lands on a low note with the Inhabit chorus.]

Inhabit Chorus: Inhabit. 

Erika Eitland: But you know, last episode, we talked about an unsung hero of third spaces, and that was parking lots—which…a shocker for me to even think about that as a public healther—but, you know, with programming—so, activities and people—parking lots can become a thriving public space, serving diverse people in a community.

Eunice Wong: I mean, “programming”: So I’m defining that as, you know, recreational facilities or gardens or event spaces. Programming, people, and maintenance can really make all the difference in a public park.

Erika Eitland: 100 percent. When we’re talking about improving human experience, we need to focus on quality over quantity. It’s not enough to just say “Oh, you’re ten minutes away from a park!” when it’s inaccessible, unsafe, poorly maintained, exposed to the elements… And really support a range of ages and abilities. And so I think, Eunice, one thing that I would love for us to do is just, like, get back to basics. When we’re talking about parks, how would you define it? What do we got to know?

Eunice Wong: I mean, there are a few ways parks get built. But every municipality, region, state, or province, they have their own strategy, priorities, ways to identify need, different land-use planning or implementation tools. But one of the ways that new park land can be obtained and built is through development.

Erika Eitland: Hmmmm. OK, so at first when we were talking about development, it really sounded so straightforward. Like, “Let’s just convert vacant lots into community parks because there’s benefits to that community!” [Eunice chuckles.] But I was really humbled by chatting with producer Lauren about the history of parks, especially that, in Atlanta, like so many of our US cities, people have used those benefits of public parks to historically justify displacing racialized groups and allocating that space for white people. You know, if we go back to New York’s Central Park, this is exactly what happened with Seneca Village, where you had a small, tight-knit group of individuals living there, of predominantly African-American descent and then a third of the population was Irish immigrants. And they were displaced in the name of Central Park. So I don’t know, when we say development, it’s complicated.

Eunice Wong: Oh, definitely. I mean, to that point, affluent neighborhoods or, you know, areas where there may be more well-connected advocacy groups, you know, in a way are much more likely to first, you know, receive more attention, but also more funding, better maintenance plans, a higher allocation of resources when it comes to parks. 

Erika Eitland: And those are our Trinity Bellwoods or Central Park. 

Eunice Wong: Yep. But, you know, outside of just these large famous parks, we should also shout out the little guys, the little parks, too. [Erika Eitland: The little guys!] The little guys! I think they do a lot to stitch together, you know, this broader green network.

Erika Eitland: These are the pocket park or the parklets that exist within our cities.

Eunice Wong: Exactly, it’s all the “green in-between”! 

Erika Eitland: Mm!

Eunice Wong: But I think today I’m stoked to not just talk about, you know, the legal, plannery process of “How does a park get built?” but—

Erika Eitland: I’m so grateful for that.

Eunice Wong: You’re welcome. [Laughs]

Erika Eitland: Thank you for stopping yourself.

Eunice Wong: But I want to focus on the design outcomes and the human outcomes that we want to achieve in these spaces. Right, that should be our starting point. What do we need to learn, understand But most importantly, what should we advocate for?

[“Flute Alors” flute stem vibrates in. Bass line takes over.]

Erika Eitland: So where are we going today? Well, we’re going to kick off today’s episode with my favorite thing, Inhabit’s love languages, f design, policy, and research. And we’ve got a juicy Inhabit By the Numbers to help us understand the social and design challenges facing parks. Just how many stats can we fit into a five-minute segment? Puh-lenty! So get ready.

Eunice Wong: Next, as always, we’ll talk about the people—the people in our parks that make the spaces places. Paul, my boss—you heard him last episode—he likes to say it’s the human element that distinguishes space from place. And we both know that parks are hosts to an entire range of human emotions and behaviors. Right, there are places for reading a book, blowing off steam, finding a quiet place to be just left alone to sleep, throwing a Frisbee around, or processing grief—

Erika Eitland: Or just making out! Just saying! 

Eunice Wong: Yes! Making out! Very important in parks. How could I forget? [Giggles] 

Erika Eitland: But seriously, if we think beyond just the typical park user, we should actually be asking, Who isn’t in our park spaces? We live in quite diverse cities, but I can’t seem to really see that diversity in our parks. So this episode, we want to ask, Who doesn’t feel like they have a Central Park or Trinity Bellwoods to go to? And why does that happen?

[Flute stem cues in ascending to high note]

Lauren Neefe: OK, we’re leaving Trinity Bellwoods Park. [Echoes]

Eunice Wong: And I think we have the perfect guests this episode to push us to think beyond those more obvious aspects of parks. This isn’t like parking lots from last episode, where they’re public spaces hidden in plain sight. Parks are probably the most obvious public spaces. They almost show off in plain sight. [Music cuts out] But there’s a lot in the invisible that designers like me should think about— [Funk guitar, bass, and drums cue back in] our social connections, our front line of defense against climate change, the holders of our cultural and our Indigenous histories. You know, the list goes on and on. To help us shine a light on all this critical invisible stuff, we checked in with Toronto park advocates—and friends of Inhabit—Adri Stark and Wes Reibeling. They both work at Park people, a Toronto-based nonprofit that empowers city communities across Canada to get the most out of their green spaces.

Erika Eitland: Throughout this episode, we’ll share with you some of what we learned from their latest report and community examples that inspired us. All right, it’s time to nerd out.

[“Flute Alors” bass line cues out]

Eunice Wong: So why parks? There are so many reasons for us to collectively care about parks, for both the nondesigners and designers alike.

Erika Eitland: For me, it goes to our first love language: research. Public health studies have been done on urban green space and vegetation. This includes parks, gardens, yards, urban forests and urban farms. And urban green-space research shows positive association—so, benefits—with physical activity, obesity, cardiovascular disease, school performance, mental health, even maternal health benefits such as birth weight or maternal peripartum depression, not to mention overall benefits for mortality rates.

Eunice Wong: And think about our planet. There’s so many other environmental health benefits of greater greenness: trees, plants instead of hard, impermeable urban surfaces like parking lots. Think about stormwater management and reductions in urban heat island. It just seems like we have plenty of data to make that case. 

Erika Eitland: It’s true…to some extent. But also you gotta pause, because many of these studies are “cross-sectional,” so it means that they look at it at one point in time and they don’t follow people across seasons and weather variations. Many studies are also just looking at residential exposure: the relationship between parks and where you live. What about where you work? Or where you learn?

Eunice Wong: Right. And parks are not just environmentally defined. It’s a community destination. [Erika Eitland: For sure.] And with that, it means it must be defined by the human experience. You know, is it mentally restorative? Is it comfortable? Is it safe?

Erika Eitland: Is it culturally responsive? A place for recreation or community gathering? And I think this is why, Eunice, we need a whole episode on just parks.

Eunice Wong:So for our listeners, if you want to learn more about this nerdy relationship between nature and our physical and mental health, [“Flute Alors” flute motif floats in and cuts out after url], please check out our show notes at inhabit.perkinswill.com.

Erika Eitland: Alright. If research tells us why parks, then our second love language, policy, will tell us how did they end up this way? 

Eunice Wong: Policies have shaped the entire role of a park and eventually its design as well. For example, think about resource management, biodiversity, or environmental-conservation policies. They all are trying to protect the flora and the fauna in parks.

Erika Eitland: OK, hold on. Are we, are we fauna in this situation? 

Eunice Wong: Yes. You and I are fauna. 

Erika Eitland: OK, people are fauna. OK. Back to you.

Eunice Wong: On the other hand, parks also play an important role in cultural or historical conservation, too. That also includes us. So our landscapes hold these deep histories really for centuries and centuries before they became a Toronto or a Boston or a New York.

Erika Eitland: Oh, I love that. So these policies help preserve, acknowledge, or celebrate those histories [Eunice Wong: Yes.]and even just the land and water and traditions that flow through it. [Eunice Wong: Mmhm.] That’s really cool.

Eunice Wong: Buuut this has not always been true. [Erika Eitland: Uh-oh.] Remember earlier this season, we talked about those no loitering signs—

Erika Eitland: Mmmmhmm! Can’t unsee them.

Eunice Wong: and you can’t unsee them? Jinx. 

Erika Eitland: Yep. Tracking.

Eunice Wong: Policies like that have always been used to push stereotypes, profiling, policing, all of that bad stuff. Which reminds me of the City Beautiful movement, which has had lasting impacts on our parks and our public spaces.

Erika Eitland: Now, give me the history I crave. Yep, dive in deeper. 

Eunice Wong: OK are you ready? 

Erika Eitland: Yeah, I’m ready.

Eunice Wong:  OK the City Beautiful movement. This is one of the many movements in architecture and urban planning in North America, mostly around the late 19th century. Back then, cities were seen as ugly, congested, dirty [Erika chimes in: “Polluted!”] polluted. The movement believed that beauty and aesthetics would “cure” or get rid of undesirable or “dirtier” types of people and behaviors.

Erika Eitland: What?!?! What does that even mean? OK.

Eunice Wong: It was a belief that, you know, lower classes of society could maybe learn a thing or two about how to properly behave if the spaces were just more beautiful and filled with much more quote-unquote classy people.

Erika Eitland: Classy defined by who? I mean, OK, so these signs and policies like keep off the grass are really not just an aesthetic thing here? 

Eunice Wong: Exactly, yeah. They thought they could create social harmony through beauty, but that came at the expense of people. You know, it’s like your example of Seneca Village or the now Central Park. This maybe—maybe—well-meaning movement led to the clearing of neighborhoods, displacing poor communities, really trying to, you know, again quote-unquote, clean up the image of the city.

Erika Eitland: Yikes. I mean, good intentions maybe? [Eunice Wong: Maybe.] But this is an example of how you truly need to understand the social complexities of cities as much as the physical ones. 

Eunice Wong: Exactly. 

Erika Eitland: Alright, well, I want us to head back across the border into the United States and talk about how also policy was at play here with the segregation of parks and recreation spaces, which persisted long after the Civil Rights Act of 1964. [Eunice Wong: Hmm.]This is a time when, you know, instead of integrating our city pools, we were just filling them with concrete, and it led to the rise of private recreation facilities, the system that is still very much in practice today. So do you have a gym membership? Do you use it? These are two very different problems. But the important piece here is when we don’t see minoritized groups in spaces like our parks, it’s because decades of policy have perpetuated the narrative that parks are happy places for park users but largely ignore communities they pushed out long ago.

[Another “Flute Alors” flute motif floats in and out, landing on a midrange note.]

Eunice Wong: Alright. I think this leads us to our third and final love language: design. Design isn’t just about form or color and beauty, but an understanding of the social context behind it, too.


Erika Eitland: Mmmm. You know I love social context. [Eunice giggles.] But let’s talk design because design is a public health intervention after all.

Eunice Wong: Right. And from a designer’s standpoint, there’s a lot of pressure on our parks. You know, we designers, planners, city parks departments, we’re all a little guilty of focusing on supply and demand of park spaces, rather than trying to balance the priorities of park spaces and how that translates to an actual physical, on-the-ground design.

Erika Eitland: OK, so more people more parks—quantity—but quality? 

Eunice Wong: Quality?Exactly. i actually want to share a project that I worked on that tries to balance both. So the Meadoway in Toronto is an example of nature coexisting with cities. [Erika: OK.] So it’s under a hydrocorridor.

Erika Eitland: Hold on. What’s a hydrocorridor?

Eunice Wong: [Laughs] OK, backup. A hydrocorridor is a utility corridor. So it’s the ones that help deliver electricity across a region. You’ve seen them, the transmission towers and wires—

Erika Eitland: OK, that sounds scenic, but that’s ugly, Eunice.

Eunice Wong: [Giggling] I know. OK, anyways, on the Meadoway Project, underneath these maybe uglier hydrocorridors, the mowed grasses have been restored into rich meadow habitats: think about birds and bees and butterflies and so many flowers. So we worked with the Conservation Authority to also build a 16-kilometer multiuse trail—casual—throughout these meadows. So communities can walk, bike, rest, and just kind of exist around nature. 

Erika Eitland: OK, so that was a creative plot twist from transmission towers to being with nature. I mean, it sounds like it’s not a forced marriage, though, between people and nature. And I really appreciate that because I think design can be these meaningful opportunities to respond to those pressures you’re talking about. But I think that creativity is critical.

Eunice Wong: Yeah, totally. I mean, my hope is that this isn’t just another example of, you know, “If we just build it, they’ll come.” There must be maintenance, events, funding, true accountability. Design can only take us so far. Without ongoing support, parks can end up, like, places that are scary, avoided, or underutilized.

Erika Eitland: So instead of “If we build it, they will come,” it’s more like, “If we build it, we should maintain it! [“Flute Alors” flute stem cues in on a descending arpeggio.] Program it, audit it. Maybe just continue to invest in it.”

Eunice Wong: Exactly. 

[Flute stem echoes.]

Erika Eitland: Alright, alright, alright. It’s time for Inhabit [“Flute Alors” flute stem cues in on vibrato] By the Numbers. We need to better understand the current state of our parks in Canada if we are going to move forward. [Flute continues]

Eunice Wong: And we’re calling on our friend Adri Stark. In 2023, Park People released the Canadian City Parks Report. This is a treasure trove of statistics and insights, all focused on getting deep into some of the most pressing issues, like the climate crisis or homelessness. 

[Flute echoes to fade]

Adri Stark: My name is Adri Stark. I’m a senior project manager at Park People, and what I do is lead our research work, which includes our annual Canadian City Parks report. The report is something we’ve been putting out since 2019. We created it in response to this need that we identified through talking to park professionals, to people like city staff, who just pointed out that there was no actual platform for learning or knowledge exchange among them. So we knew there was all this great stuff happening in parks, but there was actually no way for folks to learn from what others were doing in other parts of the country. 

Eunice Wong: What stood out to me in this Canadian report is that less than half of cities collect data on perceptions of park quality, but only 20 percent of cities collect data on socioeconomic identities of park visitors—highlighting a gap in understanding parkgoers’ experiences. So the research is clear about park inequities, and yet we don’t even measure it. 

Erika Eitland: Yeah, this isn’t an issue that you can just have a rat czar and solve it.

Eunice Wong: [Laughs] Yes, right. A single person can’t tackle this issue alone. I mean, right now in Toronto, there’s a big pigeon problem.

Erika Eitland: Oh my god, your arch nemesis.

Eunice Wong: Yes, I know. I hate pigeons. No offense. [Erika: Yeah.] But the city is managing that by giving pigeons birth control. [Erika: Excuse me?] That’s our priority right now. Yes. My question is, Why are we not, you know, maybe using some of those resources to holistically look at why Black and brown folks are not in our parks?

Erika Eitland: Mmm. OK, I’m sorry, but pigeon birth control? I have really heard it all. And honestly, I think we need to get to the stats, because there are people missing from this process. And I think Adri shareS some critical reasons why they may be missing.

Adri Stark: We have some stats from our most recent survey, for example, 94 percent of Canadians or—I shouldn’t say “Canadians.” So 94 percent of city residents—like, living in Canadian cities—said that parks benefited their mental health in the past year. But when we actually disaggregated that along different sociodemographic lines, we found that that percentage was significantly lower for folks who are identified as Black or Indigenous. And so there’s all this literature pointing to the ways that the physical aspects of parks can influence public health—you know, like the level of vegetation or where the park is relative to a road, or there’s even this wild study that shows that more bloblike–shaped parks have an impact on mortality rates. So when I think about things like this sort of simplistic narrative that parks are good for your health, I think about the folks that I met during that research. Many of them lived in very park-dense neighborhoods and had abundant green space around them, but were not at all able to benefit from that green space, because— You know, like, one person who participated talked about a time where somebody threw a glass bottle at him when he was going through Trinity Bellwoods, a park that, you know, most Torontonians would feel pretty comfortable just hanging out in. For him, it was actually a place of danger, and like a safe public space for him was a back alley in the middle of the night when no one would be around to bother him during his work. [Flute motif] We actually surveyed the public this year: 62 percent of city residents who had noticed an encampment in their local park said that it had not negatively impacted their use of parks. That’s kind of a double-negative situation, but what it tells us is that actually there are a ton of people out there who are perfectly fine welcoming their unhoused neighbors in their communities and are not actually affected in any way by this reality. So I think that’s important to notice. It’s such a contentious issue, and the loud voices are the ones that tend to dominate, and those loud voices have very specific opinions. And it’s just important to know that they don’t reflect the experiences of everyone. [Flute motif] One of my favorite stats from our latest report—and favorite in a bad way, like this is really problematic: only 22 percent of city residents said that they feel they have a voice in decision making about their local parks. And this was actually a big drop from the previous year, which was 36 percent. And I think it shows that now more than ever—like, particularly coming out of years of social distancing where things moved online—people are feeling suuuper disconnected and super isolated from being able to influence the places in their community that affect them and and being able to even just understand how to participate.

[Longer flute motif winds down to punctuate.]

Erika Eitland: Like Adri mentioned, the Canadian City Parks Report touches on the rise of homeless encampments in parks, which has occurred throughout North America.

Eunice Wong: Our parks are hostile places for these vulnerable populations in other ways as well. And actually through design. Adri highlights for us here how “defensive design,” like the City Beautiful movement, tries to control how people act or behave in parks, and gives us some tips for “designing for dignity.”

Adri Stark: Defensive design is a design strategy that guides behavior in public space with the intention of, I guess, reducing crime or maintaining order? Heavy quotations marks around everything I just said. So the classic example is, like, the bench with the middle armrest that prevents someone from lying down. But it can also take so many other forms. Like, I don’t know if you’re familiar with Cara Chellew’s work, but she’s a brilliant researcher on this topic, and she talks about “ghost amenities.” So these are things like washrooms and drinking fountains that really should be in parks and public spaces, but they’re often intentionally left out because they’re thought to attract undesirable uses-slash-people. There’s also things like sound devices that emit like a high-pitched [giggles] sound that makes it unpleasant to, like, linger in a place over time. So there’s so many different forms that defensive design can take. But we really wanted to figure out, What would the opposite of that be? And so we spoke with a bunch of folks with lived experience as well as, like, landscape architects, city staff, people with a variety of perspectives. And we found that what we call “designing for dignity” would involve four different sort of prongs. The first is meeting basic needs. So really moving beyond just thinking of parks as places for leisure, but also being intentional about making sure they support basic survival needs—whether that’s using the washroom or drinking water or personal hygiene. The second is balancing safety and privacy. So typically, we design parks to have things like open sight lines. But we actually heard that for people who don’t have access to any enclosed private spaces, it’s really important for them to have moments of privacy in a public space. So things like actually ensuring that there are areas with vegetation where somebody can sort of tuck away if they need to do something private is really important. The third is fostering community. So often we design public spaces to sort of prevent loitering, but what we found is there’s a real opportunity to insert icebreakers in the environment to bring people together to have a conversation when they might not normally interact as strangers. And then the last is centering harm reduction. So just making sure that public spaces are supporting the inclusion and safety of people who use substances.

Erika Eitland: I love the four elements Adri calls out for designing for dignity, because it works for any design scale, or type: healthcare, housing, education, not just parks: No. 1: Design for basic needs. No. 2: Balance safety and privacy. No. 3: Foster community. And 4: Center harm reduction.

Eunice Wong: I love this too, because it’s a universal litmus test—a Post-It note reminder for any designer to center the individual people, their lived experience, and their histories. 

Erika Eitland: Eunice, you know this about me, but my little antenna goes up when I hear words like “belonging” or “inclusivity.” I mean, are they buzzwords? Or is there actual depth to those statements? Eunice Wong: Oh, yeah. 

Erika Eitland: You know, so often they’re just vehicles to talk about aesthetics. And I think what Adri is doing is really elevating the human experience and calling out that all humans in our parks are worthy of respect.

Eunice Wong: We don’t often talk about dignity as a core tenet of our design. We don’t think or reflect on if spaces are making people feel like they’re worthy or respected. So even if we just think about accessibility and we think about a ramp, that meets just No. 1, design for a basic need. But how does the entire journey through our public space balance other needs and foster community and get to that point about dignity? 

Erika Eitland: Yeah, and I think this framework at least provides some greater specificity for our designers, where they can be deliberate and holistic in their design for everyone. But the numbers and stats Adri shared help illuminate that larger gap in the process that we’re all fighting against. 

Eunice Wong: Oh, yeah. This is like a roadmap for designers to connect back to the people on the ground.

Erika Eitland: Yes. And I’ve brought it up before—the Hippocratic Oath. So this guide to the ethical practice of doctors, which states, “Do no harm.” But namely, do good. And I think designers should abide by this. Inhabit has always been about the power of design. With that power comes responsibility. 

Eunice Wong: But we both know design is not the only source of power. Everyone needs to be invested. [Erika: Yes.] Decades of deliberate, consistent advocacy—even if we just think about parks—can really change the trajectory of those spaces.

Erika Eitland: And advocacy is not just protests and large-scale movements. Advocacy for dignity, health, safety, inclusion can happen at all levels at any time: in your organization’s meetings, voting for candidates, educating others…. Those baby steps are required to make larger strides later.

Eunice Wong: Mmmm. Design is a form of advocacy, especially when we talk about our shared spaces like parks.

Erika Eitland: To balance the two—advocacy and power—it takes great responsibility and the ability to authentically listen and learn during the design process. 

Eunice Wong: Speaking of listening and learning during the design process, I think that’s why our next guest and the story he’ll tell is one we could really learn from. Just a bit of context: We’ll talk about Hanlan’s Point Beach. It’s one of Canada’s oldest openly queer park spaces. It’s on the Toronto Islands. Last year, the city revealed a master plan for the islands that was showing, you know, a concert amphitheater or festival venue right next to Hanlan’s Point that had the potential of squeezing out that decades-old safe queer space. So here our friend Wes will share how the power of advocacy has helped to reshape—or course-correct—that planning and design process.

[“Flute Alors” flute stem cues in briefly.]

Wes Reibeling: My name is Wesley Reibeling or Wes Reibeling or Wesley Lincoln Reibeling. You can use whatever one you want. I use he/him or he/they pronouns. I am the Toronto program manager at Park People. I’m queer. I’m a disabled urbanist. I’m a community builder and 2SLGBTQ advocate. I see myself as an artist, a city builder, I’m an activist, and a lover of community and equitable cities. But yeah, back to Park People. I’m Toronto program manager at Park People. Park People supports and mobilizes people to help them activate the power of parks to improve the quality of life in cities across Canada. So we’re a national organization. Our main work happens in the three big cities of Vancouver, Montreal, and Toronto. And then outside of work, I’m co-chair of Jane’s Walk, and I’m on the advisory board of Urban Minds, which gets youth interested in urban planning and architecture and how our cities are built. [“Flute Alors” flute motif floats in and out] Hanlan’s Point. So Hanlan’s has a really rich history that spans over, I’d say, 80-some years. So back even in the , it was a beach for the working person where folks would actually bathe nude. It used to be that it was actually more comfortable for folks to bathe nude than be wearing, like, swimmers. Really good book called Undressed Toronto if you want to read it that I would highly recommend that kind of speaks about the history of this. With that, due to this being a nude space where folks felt comfortable to be in their own bodies, it also was inherently queer. You can find records at the archives here in Toronto that back, even earlier than 1940s, that folks knew this as kind of a queer space, like a secret queer space. So this has been going on for almost 100 years. The Hanlan’s Point was where the first official pride picnic happens. So if we think of, like, our personal Stonewall in Toronto—maybe with less bricks being thrown—this is a space that has a significant queer history. So due to public outcry around the Toronto Island master plan, the city took it upon themself to actually involve the queer community more to pivot to make room to listen to folks, to create space for folks to tell them why the queer community is important to the space. So I want to say bravo to the city for creating that. I also want to say bravo to the activists for speaking up about, like, “Yo, this space is really important to us. Please don’t move forward without us.” So I think just always going back to, like, “nothing without us”: from an Indigenous lens, from an accessibility lens, from a queer lens, from a Black lens, from an everybody lens, especially folks who haven’t had that in power.

[“Flute Alors” flute cues in and out ascending to a high note]

Erika Eitland and Eunice Wong: Nothing about us, without us.

Eunice Wong: Wes so powerfully broadens that phrase and made it so personal. This phrase was actually first used by disability activists in the 1990s, and it was later adopted during the creation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Erika Eitland: These five words are so clearly stating what I’ve been hoping for all episode. [Eunice: Mmhmm] You know, this belief that disability rights should not be created without the voices of persons with disabilities or the future of Hanlan’s Point could not be decided without queer input and perspective. And that’s what we’re trying to get to here.

Eunice Wong: Oh, yeah. Hundred percent. I mean, reports from earlier this year actually highlight that there’s still ongoing advocacy taking place at Hanlan’s Point Beach as they’re discussing, you know, opportunities for actual formal event spaces. 

Erika Eitland: Oh, interesting. So I mean, it’s not totally over. I think this is what sort of I’m wondering about is like, Are there other examples that exist? [Eunice Wong: Yeah] Like, who has actually performed authentic engagement in the park process and doesn’t require, like, this advocacy response?

Eunice Wong: I have an example. I found a friend for one.

Erika Eitland: [Incredulous] You have other friends, Eunice?

Eunice Wong: [Laughs] Sorry.

Erika Eitland: When did that happen? 

Eunice Wong: Overnight. [Erika Eitland giggles] Perkins&Will’s urban designer, Cassandra Rice, shared with me this example of Folkets Park, or the People’s Park. This is a contested space in Copenhagen [Erika Eitland: OK], but what was interesting is that they use a public-engagement process that intentionally advocated that all people who use the park should have a stake in its redesign and have a home in the future renovated park.

Erika Eitland: Hmmm. OK, all people, Eunice?

Eunice Wong: Yes, actually all people. [Erika Eitland: Hmm] So not only were there, you know, park activists or parents with kids that wanted to play there—you know, usual suspects [Erika Eitland: Sure]— but people that we don’t typically see were also prioritized in the process, so unhoused migrants or even drug dealers.

Erika Eitland: Oh, wow. And so how did they balance everyone’s need in the final design?

Eunice Wong: Well, one of the examples that I found was how they dealt with lighting. [Erika Eitland: Interesting] We usually think that, you know, creating a safe place equals adding lighting, right? [Erika Eitland: Right, yeah.] Basic, maybe 101 of open space design. But the engagement process showed that some groups actually needed darkness to feel safe. Like those that were unhoused actually wanted darkness to help feel a sense of protection. [Erika Eitland: That’s interesting] So as a result, through the process and through this engagement process, the designers ended up with creating “zone lighting.” What that meant in this case was that the main paths would be lit up, but there would be pockets of darkness that helped to respect other groups’ needs for safety and their rights to that public space.

Erika Eitland: I can only imagine these were hard conversations to have at first. I mean, these are such different groups, and that’s such a different way to think about lighting.

Eunice Wong: Totally. I mean, must have been very difficult conversations, but this kind of sticky part of learning from engagement leads us to more honest and inclusive park spaces. Right? We have a role as designers to mediate conversations like this to help communities and strategize potential solutions.

Erika Eitland: For sure. And it gets back to quality and quantity. It’s not just as simple as, “Oh, let’s add a few trees in a playground and—boom!—you’re solving climate change and kids are happy. [Eunice Wong chuckles] But really a high-quality process yields better results regardless of the quantity of park you’re working with. 

Eunice Wong: Definitely. 

Erike Eitland: These conversations continue to bring up so many questions. Especially when researching for this episode. (Hashtag see the show notes.) What about the different immigrant groups that will use the park space? Older adults doing tai chi? Local birdwatchers? Places for folks, you know, to scatter ashes? Or just for Indigenous ceremonies?

Eunice Wong: You’re touching on that wide spectrum of human experience. And you’re also touching on aspects of the natural environment, too, which all parks could be host to. I think there isn’t one perfect recipe that can be copy-and-pasted for every single park, right? There’s no perfect trail configuration or lighting or set of plant species that will work everywhere.

Erika Eitland: I mean, of course, again, it would be too easy.

Eunice Wong: Way too easy. But if we listen longer [“Flute Alors” full mix cues in], engage deeper, contextualize holistically, I think we can get closer to designing parks for all.

[“Flute Alors” continues.]

Wes Reibeling: So last, last, last, last thing I’ll say is, when we invite people into a consultation to a space, when we talk to them, when we’re trying to figure out better futures for cities, for our parks, it’s not just about having an accessible time. It’s not just about, like, feeding folks, about paying them for their time—so important. Once they’re in that space, how do you make sure people feel comfortable to actually voice their opinion and have the confidence too? There’s so much more to that. And I think it’s really centering ourselves as not just planners or as authority figures, but really as hosts for community voices.

Erika Eitland: Eunice, we started this episode with a moment of pause, a deep breath in and out, and each breath, it was a chance to appreciate the physical, mental, and social benefits of parks. And yet it seems that public parks are also susceptible to how biased systems prioritize certain park goers over others.

Eunice Wong: The “tragedy of commons”: where individuals have access to a shared resource and act in their own interest at the expense of other individuals.

Erika Eitland: Exactly, Eunice. In the absence of an inclusive park process where diverse community members are involved, we may not understand how park design, signage, entrances, furniture, shade structures impact or even deter park goers.

Eunice Wong: Erika, we’re at an inflection point where we accelerate our efforts towards intentional design that promotes human dignity.

Erika Eitland: Ah! Bring it back to our girl, Adri [Eunice Wong: Mmhmm] who said only 22 percent of city residents feel they have a voice in the decision making about their local parks.

Eunice Wong: I mean, at the super basic level, we need to just do the work with our communities, because we don’t have all the answers, no matter how many years of design experience we each may have.

Erika Eitland: And honestly, sometimes we lump together the community or the users as a homogenous group. When we work through design problems [makes a noise “Errp”] we need to actually make time to break those down further.

Eunice Wong: I think we need to be fearless! Right, having conversations outside of our comfort zone. You know, it may be a sticky part of that process, but usually, it’s the most enlightening part. We must move at “the speed of trust.” To Wes’s point, you know, how do you build trust and a comfortable setting for honest conversations?

Erika Eitland: Truly. And to get to some of this, I wanted to find examples of places that center minoritized groups in the park-making process. 

[“Flute Alors” fades out. “Without a Doubt” (drum and bass stems) by Blue Topaz cues in]

So I reached out to an expert, Alexa Vaughn, who’s a Deaf landscape designer and accessibility specialist, and she provided a short list. But what resonated with me was what she said, “Engaging subaltern groups in the design process is still not happening as much as it should be. And I feel that it’s tough to track when and where it’s happening.” So this is also a challenge of dissemination and ongoing assessment in our park-making process.

[“Without a Doubt” begins to fade out]

Eunice Wong: Well, Erika, I feel like we could talk about parks forever. But as we wrap up, I want to leave our listeners with a sense of optimism and hope.

[Sound of birds in Atlanta’s Westside Park cues in, along with “Everyday Bliss” by Mica Emory]

Erika Eitland: Totally. One of the key takeaways for me this entire season in Toronto is the need for public healthers and urban design folks like the two of us [Eunice Wong (whispers): Yeaaah!] to work hand in hand. 

Eunice Wong: Teamwork makes the dream work. [Giggles]

Erika Eitland: OK, that was cheesy—

Eunice Wong: I know. [Keeps giggling]

Erika Eitland: But we’re gonna go with it. By joining forces, we can create spaces that are not only beautiful, but also promote the well-being of every individual who uses them.

Eunice Wong: And what we share in our friendship and partnership is this core belief that our work should embrace intersectionality—to recognize and integrate the various aspects of human experience, from race and gender to socioeconomic status, to promote a true sense of belonging.

Erika Eitland: To the emerging designers and public health professionals listening: We hope you carry forward the torch of innovation, accountability, and empathy. Your work is a cornerstone of healthier, more inclusive and responsive urban environments. We need your fresh perspectives and your passion to continue pushing the boundaries of what’s possible.

Eunice Wong: And to those in positions of power: We ask for your support and vision. Invest in projects that prioritize public health, inclusivity, and sustainability. Listen to the voices of the communities you serve, and champion the design, policy, or research that make our cities healthier and more equitable.

Erika Eitland: Because after all, this work is about our legacy. Creating parks and public spaces that are welcoming for everyone is a responsibility we shouldn’t take lightly.

[“Everyday Bliss” gets louder]

Eunice Wong: You are listening to inhabit. I’m Eunice Wong.

Erika Eitland: I’m Dr. Erika Eitland. 

[“Everyday Bliss” fades out to birds chirping in Westside Park, brief pause, then “Everyday Bliss” breaks back in a bit louder]

We have a fabulous website at inhabit.perkinswill.com. There are show notes chock-full of pictures and links to all the resources and references we shared.

Eunice Wong: A big thank-you to our friends at Park People, Adri Stark and Wes Reibeling, for being champions of our park spaces and for sharing their wisdom with us. A bonus thank-you to my partner, Daniel Hopper—[smiling] you’re the best—for walking my friends, Erika and Lauren, through our local park last winter.

Erika Eitland: Have you seen our amazing illustrations by Julio Brenes? Find them on Instagram and follow us @inhabit.podcast. This season you’ll be hearing our fearless Dr. Lauren Neefe, who also produces and edits the show. Our music is from Epidemic Sound.

Eunice Wong: Inhabit is also a member of the SURROUND Podcast Network, which means we’re cousins with some of the best architecture and design podcasts around: Clever, Deep Green, Design Tangents, Barriers 2 Entry. We’re all on surroundpodcasts.com.

Erika Eitland: And a final thank-you to our advisory board. This is the full nerd team: Mide Akinsade, Yanel de Angel, Casey Jones, Paul Kulig, Yehia Madkour, Angela Miller, Rachel Rose, Kimberly Seigel, Gautam Sundaram, and Stephanie Wolfgang.

[“Everyday Bliss” melody stem only cues in louder]

Inhabit Chorus: [low Inhabit rumble] People Places Power Design Change Now.

[Inhabit snap-in-space mnemonic]

Lauren Neefe: A Perkins&Will podcast.

[SURROUND Podcast network mnemonic]

Erika Eitland: Now we have to just take a moment to appreciate the evolution of gnome culture. Because at one point, they used to be three feet tall, a little bit terrifying if you think about it that way, but they were hand-painted and expensive. Now this season has been dedicated to immigration in so many forms and fashions. And this also is true for our good friends the gnome. Because they used to be from the Black Forest region of Germany, and they were serious little critters. You know, they were carpenters, gun totin’, fishermen, and gardeners. However, when they moved to the UK, they were really made to be simple little garden figures. And we have to just appreciate how evolution can change something so powerful into something so small.

[Eunice snickers and then crack ups into laughter]

Eunice Wong: The way you just combine random gnome facts [Erika wheezes] to make total sense in the context of this like entire [laughs] immigration, culture. And I’m like reading this, I was, like, they’re just playing chess. They’re, like, little guys playing chess. [Both cracking up] I’m, like, crying real tears.

Erika Eitland: [Sighs, snickers] And that’s a wrap. 

Eunice Wong: [Sighs] That’s a wrap.