Open Voices Blog

News and conversations about the growing evidence of the healing power of nature and green development in cities

Defining the Elements that Make an ‘Open Space Sacred Place’

06/24/15 | View Comments

Over the past 20 years, TKF has collected thousands of journal entries left by visitors to our Open Spaces Sacred Places which we recently started sharing in a Friday weekly feature, #Benchstories. And while the journals are an important part of our Open Spaces Sacred Places, the thoughts recorded in them are often the culmination of a visitor’s experience at one of these sacred spaces. Every TKF Open Space Sacred Place includes four specific design elements which work together to support the TKF mission of offering a temporary place of sanctuary, encouraging reflection, providing solace and engendering peace. These design elements include a Portal, a Path, a Destination and a Surround–each of which serves an important purpose in the overall design of the space.

TKF Foundation Sacred Spaces Elements

The first design element you will find as you enter a TKF Open Place Sacred Space is a portal which the visitor passes through. This could be an archway, gate, trellis, overhanging trees or other marker of some sort. Passing through the portal marks the transition from the space of every day life to a reflective space where one can experience the power of nature.


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Reclaiming a Sacred Space for Your Self

06/23/15 | View Comments

In our Open Voices blog we share insight from leaders in our communities who are advancing what it means to have sacred, open green spaces in our cities. This month we discuss the real, lived experience when you rest in nearby nature. Look around you, take a deep breath and allow a moment for your Self.

Friedrichsau, Wasserspiele

Spending time in nature relaxes us. Even after just a few minutes of being in a green space our bodies slide into a relaxation response. You will experience a decrease in blood pressure, a decrease in cortisol output, heightened immunity, a decrease in muscle tension, and an increase in alertness.

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TKF Team Member Roger Ulrich, Ph.D Honored by The Center for Health Design

06/18/15 | View Comments

Roger Ulrich pictureThe Center for Health Design is honoring Roger S. Ulrich, Ph.D, Lead Researcher on the Legacy Health team for “A Nature Place” one of the TKF Foundation’s Nature Sacred National Awardees, with their annual Changemaker award. The award was announced in the May issue of Healthcare Design and recognizes individuals who have “Changed the way healthcare facilities are designed and built and whose work has contributed to the advancement of healthcare design.” Ulrich will receive the award this November at the annual Healthcare Design Conference where he will give the keynote address.

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TKF Bench History: If This Bench Could Talk

06/11/15 | View Comments



“I come from the long ago. I’m not really sure how old I am. I remember Indian camps, dusty roads, ox-carts, horses, wagons, stagecoaches, and travelers on foot. About 1890 or so it was, so I am told, when I was cut down at last – “virgin timber,” they called me. Seemed to prize me greatly, declaring me “just right.” Not until later did I learn that only certain extremely tight grain trees – such as fir, cypress, redwood, and pine – were considered good enough for pickle barrels.

imlay city 029 Sept. 2009

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Introducing “Bench Stories”

06/11/15 | View Comments

Bench StoriesFor nearly 20 years, the TKF Foundation has been committed to the idea that time spent in nature can trigger profound human experiences. This can be as simple as a stress relieving break from work, to sitting under the shade of a nearby tree, to the healing power of a walk in the woods during a time of great loss or trauma.  Time spent in nature gives us the chance to think, reflect, restore and most importantly, heal.

Unfortunately for many, access to nature is limited. These limitations include both a lack of green space within the city and the time constraints placed upon the individual to experience even brief moments with nature. This is why the TKF Foundation believes it is so important to bring nature to the individual, often in places where the healing forces of nature are needed most.

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Connecting and Coping: An Interview with Teresia Hazen

06/09/15 | View Comments

In our Open Voices blog we share insight from leaders in our communities who are advancing what it means to have sacred, open green spaces in our cities. This month we take a moment to examine the real, lived experience of an open, sacred green space.

This week we talked with Teresia Hazen, MEd, HTR, GMHP, Coordinator of the Therapeutic Garden Program at Legacy Health in Portland, OR. Hazen is one of our Nature Sacred National Award team members, a leader in her field, and someone who deeply experiences the healing power of nature in her everyday life.

Nature Sacred: In the past decade, there have been many online articles about Legacy’s Gardens and your esteemed career history. The interviews and features over the past few years typically focus on the gardens themselves or the science of health and nature access. Although the science and history of the therapeutic gardens is central to our talk today, I am also interested in hearing about your interaction with patients and your own time spent in a garden or green space. You have an amazing story. You were an educator and gardener for 20 years before learning about horticultural therapy in the late 1980s. And you began working with Legacy in the early 1990s. Since then you have had so much more experience and time to learn and grow. How have your interests progressed professionally or personally in the field of therapeutic horticulture?

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Take a deep breath, listen to your self.

06/02/15 | View Comments

In our Open Voices blog we typically share insight from community leaders. This month, we shift our focus from the designers and researchers and take a moment to examine the real, lived experience of an open, sacred green space.

Last week our hearts were moved by the inspiring and revealing journal entries in a West Baltimore Open Space Sacred Place.

Throughout the country, small public green spaces offer a moment of respite and a place of healing. These spaces, supported by the Nature Sacred program, feature a bench with a waterproof community journal tucked inside and available for anyone who wishes to contribute their thoughts. Fern Shen of the Baltimore Brew writes:

“One way to learn what people are thinking and feeling in Baltimore’s struggling Westside, where worldwide attention has been focused since Freddie Gray’s death in police custody, is to go to a tiny pocket park called The Choose Life Memorial.”

An entry in West Baltimore's Choose Life Memorial park. Photo: Fern Shen

An entry in West Baltimore’s Choose Life Memorial park. Photo: Fern Shen


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    TKF Foundation

    410 Severn Avenue,
    Suite 216
    Annapolis, MD

    Tel: 410.268.1376

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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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