Twenty Five Years in the Making

Over the 25+ years since the creation of the first Open Spaces, Sacred Places, the TKF Foundation compiled anecdotal evidence of the benefits experienced by visitors to our sites. Journal entries supported our understanding of the spiritual, mental and physical well-being and improved community cohesion that can be achieved by access to urban green spaces. Visitors have documented how even the smallest urban green space provides a respite from the daily stresses life can bring. Further, we learned that the benefits of nature can be realized equally across all socio-economic demographics.

The Research

As the capstone to our work, TKF is providing $4.5 million in funding for six research projects designed to scientifically prove the inherent value and need for nearby, open access to urban nature. It is our hope that these studies will demonstrate how nature in the city can provide sacred, spiritual and healing experiences for individuals and communities.

The Nature Sacred Awards Program features the creation of urban green spaces in a variety of settings from a hospital, a senior housing community, the neglected site of a former military hospital and cemetery, to an untouched woodland area. Within these settings, as well as the use of past TKF sites, researchers are embarking on numerous rigorous studies to define and measure the restorative impact of urban green space on visitors’ well-being.

These examples of high quality design and research will elevate public awareness about the necessity and value of tranquil places where people can contemplate, reflect and find restoration. Each of the projects align with TKF ’s mission of treating human health and the environment as an integrated whole.

Creating New Spaces for Study

Five unique and engaging green spaces are being created and designed for specific populations with particular needs. Located across the United States, these projects address the challenges of local populations by creating opportunities for recovery, wellness and celebration, while conducting rigorous research that confirms the benefits of experiencing nature in urban settings.

A Team of the Best and Brightest

We are pleased to have brought together team members who are both well esteemed in their fields and who are associated with some of the most highly regarded institutions and organizations in the country. These include:

  • USDA Forest Service
  • Cornell University
  • University of Chicago
  • University of Michigan
  • University of Maryland, College Park
  • Arizona State University
  • The David Suzuki Foundation
  • Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences
  • Naval Support Activity-Bethesda (home of Walter Reed National Military Medical Center)
  • University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • Drury University
  • NYC Housing Authority
  • Brooklyn Greenway Initiative
  • Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation
  • Horticultural Society of New York
  • Green School (Brooklyn)
  • Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects
  • Brooklyn Community Housing Services
  • Legacy Health System
  • Quatrefoil, Inc.
  • Legacy Research Institute
  • Pacific University
  • Chalmers University of Technology (Sweden)
  • March of Dimes
  • American Heart Association

Research papers resulting from the studies will be submitted to leading journals for publication. Peer-reviewed papers will be posted on this site after publication (see DISCOVERIES/Peer-reviewed Papers on above menu). We expect all research to be published by January 2018.


It is our hope that the sum of the research findings will scientifically support the tenets that have guided our mission:

  • The impact of landscape design elements on visitor experience, physical, spiritual and mental restoration, immune systems, stress levels, cognitive functioning, and more.
  • The belief that one does not have to ‘go to nature, the great outdoors or  away from the city’ to realize the benefits time spent in urban nature can provide.
  • That urban nature experiences, even of short duration, can provide significant benefits to one’s well-being.
  • The understanding that everyone can benefit from contemplative, restorative moments in urban nature. This includes populations such as at-risk youth, elders, Wounded Warriors, caregivers, patients, and trauma survivors, to name a few.

We are all impacted by life’s daily struggles, yet through the simple act of spending time in a restorative, natural setting, many of life’s stressors can be eased.