Infrastructural impact of the walls – Open Space and its psychological Impact

“It’s a painful feeling like [I live] in a prison. I cannot go wherever I want anymore”, complained a 53-year-old housewife, living in Adhamiyah, one of the security zones in Baghdad (Planning in Baghdad: how years of conflict have shaped the design of the city, 2015). Not only did the walls create barriers to deteriorate accessibilities to place; it also resulted in the disappearance of open space and recreational area, making an adverse psychological impact to citizens.


Recreational places have been decreasing since the walls erected. Some were closed due to restricted access. For instance, the zoning made it impossible to cruise through or walk along the Tigris River; stadiums were closed because there were no longer events being held in them. In addition, due to the lack of a systematic waste collection scheme, parks and open area has been piled up with trash, or covered by sewage and stagnant water, especially in poor areas(Urban baghdad: Impact of Conflict on Daily Life, 2011).

Trash piles up in public spaces (Totten, 2007)

As a result, open spaces in the city has been either gone or in extremely poor condition that the residents could not enjoy at all.


It will not be surprising that if many of the residents were found to be mentally unhealthy. Open space for leisure and recreational uses can easily be ignored when it comes to urban planning that mainly focus on controlling and monitoring, however, these spaces do have a huge impact on the citizens psychologically. Exposure to sunlight and air, having greenery in the surroundings, and participation in sports were described as ‘essential joys’ by Le Corbusier, and such argument was rooted in the early 19th century, when greenery and open spaces were

Bird eye view of the Regent’s Park (Anon, 2008)

introduced in London and the Regent’s Park in the form of garden squares and the centre of residential areas respectively, the people there then had more access to the cityscape and the dwellings were provided a quasi-rural view (Le Corbusier and Entwistle, 1948). The spiritual well-beings of people were therefore enhanced, especially when the industrialization was happening at that time, which made this open space for essential (Arnold, 2005). Baghdad is not so different that when the city was already divided into zones by tall concrete walls, decreasing the mobility of people, the public spaces within zones became exceptionally important. And when these areas were gone, the people would have nowhere to relieve from the intense atmosphere other than staying at home all day. In the long run, the situation will definitely harm their mental health and illness such as anxiety and depression may occur, leading to a more socially unrest community.


If the US government included the considerations of open space when they were planning the scheme of security zones, it might have been an even more sensible decision in terms of controlling Baghdad. Looking back to the history, all the greatest revolutions startled because the citizens were too desperate to make a change since they felt that they had nothing to lose. If there is a consistently lack of open spaces for the people to enjoy and relieve, they would get more anxious and desperate and when that reaches a certain point, it may trigger the residents to oppose the US government and the result will get violent and bloody.



Anon, (2008). [image] Available at: [Accessed 18 Dec. 2017].


Arnold, D. (2005). Rural urbanism. Manchester: Manchester University Press, pp.4-6.


Le Corbusier and Entwistle, C. (1948). Concerning town planning. London: Architectural Press, p.11.


Planning in Baghdad: how years of conflict have shaped the design of the city. (2015). [online] Available at: [Accessed 18 Dec. 2017]


Totten, M. (2007). [image] Available at: [Accessed 18 Dec. 2017].


Urban baghdad: Impact of Conflict on Daily Life. (2011). [online] Inter-Agency Information and Analysis Unit, p.1. Available at: [Accessed 18 Dec. 2017].

1 Comment on “Infrastructural impact of the walls – Open Space and its psychological Impact

  1. This blog post discusses the importance of open space and green areas. I agree fully with Gavin. Open space is essential for living. Greenery has always been an important part of architecture – from Ebenezer Howards’s “Garden City Movement” to the modern trend of creating architecture with vertical gardens, green walls and green roofs. Open space and greenery are needed to create a desirable living environment. It is upsetting to see that war has created such congested living spaces for the people and how their physical and psychological needs are neglected in the times of violence.

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