Sharing Discoveries

Places of nature conceived and created by urban communities can provide opportunities for reflection, rejuvenation and physical healing

Research Briefs and Monographs

Lifestyles are busier than ever, and as people multi-task and try to keep up they feel stressed and tired. The TKF Foundation has funded a collection of smaller well-designed gardens (called Open Spaces Sacred Places or OSSPs) that offer visitors quiet time-outs from their busy lives. Users report a sense of calm, mindfulness, and healing when in the spaces.

What is the evidence of these restorative effects?

Here you will find samples of relevant research. Topics are summarized in a brief format. Each brief targets a particular experience or health benefit, or addresses the needs of a specific audience of green space users.

How do we build more contemplative spaces in cities?

Budgets are tight and communities have many needs. OSSPs might be tucked into existing parks, but can also be co-designed into higher density residential areas, as well as transit systems, streetscapes, and green infrastructure.

We hope that the ideas and facts found within these briefs will support greater commitment to nearby nature for sacred experiences and human wellness in cities.




The TKF Foundation believes that the sacred can be a part of the experience of nature in cities; few other organizations are committed to the need for civic sacred in people’s experiences of built settings. This brief explores the idea of civic sacred, considered within the everyday experiences of life, particularly in public, nearby nature settings. It reviews expert perceptions, scholarly history, and the latest scientific evidence to help users recognize and appreciate the sacredness that public nature spaces can bring to our lives.  Download PDF for on-screen viewing. Download Print Version.






Nearby nature is profoundly important for human health and wellness. Communities are working to create more parks and greenspace. A growing trend is to think about all lands as potential greenspace using a co-design for co-benefits approach. Connected bits of green – pocket parks, bioswales, green streets – can be planned as systems of micro-parks that offer respite and delight. This monograph in the Nature Sacred series, Nearby Nature for Human Health: Sites to Systems, explores the opportunities to create networked green spaces in cities. It is based on the evidence that shows that frequent, routine experiences of nearby nature offer respite, healing, and the potential for civic sacred connections. Download PDF for on-screen viewing. Download Print Version.







Older adults are an ever-growing segment of the U.S. population and they, as do people of all ages, need high quality, well-designed nearby nature for better health and well-being. As communities plan and design for nature access for residents, age-based needs should be on the checklist. This brief reviews current knowledge about older adults’ health and lifestyles, nature access, and community design. Download PDF for onscreen viewing. Download Print Version.







Stress has become a constant for many city residents. Everyday life now includes all sorts of chronic stress factors, such as work demands, extended commutes, and meeting family needs. Constant, low-grade stress can lead to irritability, an inability to concentrate, and poor immune system function. This brief provides an overview of stress and human health, and reveals how frequent, short-term experiences of nearby nature can help reduce stress. Download PDF.








Poor mental health is a growing concern for mental health professionals. Providing places for respite and restoration, urban green spaces have the potential to improve mental wellness. Parks, trees, and open space have been appreciated for their aesthetic values for centuries. In recent years scientists have revealed how brief encounters with nearby nature can also help to improve our short and longer-term mental capacities. Experiences of nature, even in cities, can promote mindfulness, reduce depression, and improve cognitive performance. This brief explores and summarizes the evidence. Download PDF.






The benefits of nature experiences may not be available to all within cities. Early concerns about environmental justice focused on the presence of toxins or reduced environmental quality (of air or water, for example). More recently, aligning with the growing evidence of nearby nature and human health, there is commitment to equal access to places that promote health and reduce disease. This brief, using the term environmental equality, examines why communities should strive to provide nearby nature experiences for all residents. Download PDF.




Lit Review Cover_5-4-2016


This literature review was our first entry into the science of garden experiences and human health response. It was prepared to provide background and support for applicants interested in the 2012 Nature Sacred Awards. The studies indicate how nature provides health benefits while a person is in a garden, and the carryover benefits  . . . . as they leave an Open Place Sacred Space and continue their daily routine. Download PDF.


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    About Us

    We are a private nonprofit that supports, informs, and inspires the creation of publicly accessible urban green spaces. We believe that every city resident needs nearby green space to provide opportunities for mindfulness, respite, and renewal. The Foundation has issued its final grants to build five Open Spaces Sacred Places and research the impacts on a variety of users with the hope that the powerful connection between nature, spirit and human wellbeing will be scientifically proven.

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