Open Voices Blog

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

Holistic Care on The Green Road

09/20/16 | View Comments

The grocery store, your city buildings, the trees lining the main street in your neighborhood, the leaves in your driveway. The role of these everyday physical spaces and places are often taken for granted. Yet, by now we’ve established that an environment can support health and healing, or hinder it. The most straightforward example, of course, could be the hospital. For hundreds of years humans have built and cultivated complex environments intended to support healing. The design of healing spaces has changed throughout history, often according to values, beliefs, scientific knowledge, and technology.

Early temples dedicated to the Greek god of healing, Asclepius, were built in pastoral settings with mineral springs, bathing pools, gymnasiums, and healing gardens.

Dedicated temples can be seen today in the Greek countryside of the once city-state of Epidaurus. This World Heritage Site dates from the 4th century BCE and is a remarkable example of design devoted to healing. Here people would come to worship, lodge, recreate, and heal. The use of a garden or hot springs as a healing place is also evident in other early Asian and Roman cultures.

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Stewardship of Civic Sacred Space

05/03/16 | View Comments

“I’ve found that it’s usually the process of coming together as a community that makes a place sacred, not simply the existence of green space.”

A visit to Tanner Springs Park tends to include observing water life.

Portland’s Tanner Springs Park provides stormwater management and community engagement benefits.

 

Outdoor environments, particularly in cities, can deliver transformational benefits to users and surrounding communities. The experience of nearby nature can offer sanctuary, solace, and places for mindful reflection. Civic Sacred nature spaces can aid in community healing and connection.

What does it take to support and foster a community green space? In areas with a lack of funding or community engagement, it can be challenging. In many instances, challenges are overcome because of a few dedicated community leaders. Stewards of these spaces could be an initial community leader, one who volunteers to maintain a garden, or one who regularly visits because they recognize the value and healing within. Green spaces can be a powerful community powered mechanism for recovery after natural disasters or social need response.

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Uncover Place through Co-design: Interview with Dr. Katherine Brookfield and Iain Scott

02/23/16 | View Comments

“…in each of the cities we worked, they were kind of broken places. Old and abandoned buildings or, structures being used in a different way than when first built. Canals and viaducts that are now largely obsolete. Abandoned infrastructure. Places that are forgotten and not safe. The older people we worked with in these places were certainly concerned about safety but also valued more these older, forgotten aspects of the city. They said things like , ‘My uncle worked in that building 50 years ago… I remember my father telling me what he did there…’ They were attached to these objects. They had personal memories in these places that carried great personal weight.” – Iain Scott, describing an elder-led walking tour in a UK co-design project

Photos from one strand of the MMP project. Source.

Photos from one strand of the MMP project. Source.

How can we design places that are enjoyable to be in and easy to move around in when we are older?

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Bathing in Phytoncides, better than it sounds

01/12/16 | View Comments

Each month in our Open Voices blog we share insight from leaders and ideas advancing what it means to have sacred, open green spaces in our cities.

Forest Bathing, or shinrin-yoku, is the act of strolling through a forested area with intention. This activity, originating in Japan nearly 40 years ago, seems to have been one of the top phrases of 2015.

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Urban Green Spaces: Bridging Differences

12/15/15 | View Comments

Each month in our Open Voices blog we share insight from leaders and ideas advancing what it means to have sacred, open green spaces in our cities. This December we examine the concept of “civic sacred”. 

Public discussion about the experiences and emotions of religion and the Sacred may be challenging. Although Civic sacred is not limited to traditional places of worship and consecrated sites, popular interpretations of Sacred are connected to religion and theology, and are interlaced with faith-based organizations. There can be assumptions of exclusion or possession, as expressed in dictionary definitions of sacred: Dedicated, set apart, exclusively appropriated to some person or some special purpose. This month, many religious organizations across the U.S. are re-creating sacred space through community greening activities designed to bring those with diverse beliefs together.

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Overcoming the Mountain Pass

11/03/15 | View Comments

For the Lee family, their community garden represents Arirang (아리랑), a stirring Korean folk song with a message of overcoming an obstacle big as a mountain pass.”We were handing out flyers about an upcoming workshop and I saw the Lee family putting in a new garden sign. Mr. Lee sang the song to me. It was an honest, heartfelt moment. He was explaining how deeply this word connects with him, his family and his culture.”

This week, Renae Reynolds, a project coordinator and on-the-ground researcher in the Landscapes of Resilience project tells us about the dedication of the Lee family and others in their post-Hurricane Sandy community garden space at Beach 41st Street Houses.

Residents planted ornamental cabbage and mums in early October.

Residents planted ornamental cabbage and mums in early October.

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ADHD, medication and nature: An interview with an emerging scholar

09/22/15 | View Comments

This month as we examine the cognitive benefits from being in nature we talked with Matt Stevenson of the University of Copenhagen. Stevenson is a PhD fellow in the Forest and Landscape College and one of many emerging, dynamic projects developing out of the Centre for Outdoor Life and Nature. Stevenson represents many new scholars around the globe contributing in new ways to health and nature research.

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Nature Sacred: How do you like living in Copenhagen? What kinds of parks and outdoor activities are there?

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Equitable Urban Green Space Initiatives

08/11/15 | 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 examine the need for equal access to healthy urban spaces.

At times, a community recognizes the absence of nature, and works for change. At the other end of the scale a broader planning program for green spaces and sustainability provides a framework for future action. Jill Wrigley and Timothy Beatley exemplify leaders working at the local and global level to bring green spaces into our communities:

Case Study: Irvington Peace Park in Baltimore, Maryland

Credit: Irvington Peace Park

Credit: Irvington Peace Park

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An Enabling Garden: An interview with Alicia Green of Chicago’s Botanic Garden

07/28/15 | View Comments

As you enter the Buehler Enabling Garden, you will delight in how enveloped and comfortable you feel. It is nestled on one of Chicago Botanic Garden’s nine interconnected islands totaling 385 acres and six miles of lake shoreline. The Enabling Garden itself consists of three interconnecting outside “rooms” enclosed by lattice walls and interlaced with flowers, vegetables and vines.

We recently talked with the coordinator for the Buehler Enabling Garden, Alicia Green. Alicia has a B.A. in biology from the University of Illinois with an emphasis in ornamental horticulture. She began her career at the Chicago Botanic Garden in 2000 as the nursery grower and continued to gain experience in interior landscaping, exterior landscaping, high-end garden retail, and holiday design. She obtained a master’s degree in counseling from Northeastern Illinois University in 2009 and is a national certified counselor as well as a registered horticultural therapist.

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A Sense of Surround, in person and virtually

07/21/15 | 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.

As you enter the Buehler Enabling Garden, you will delight in how enveloped and comfortable you feel. It is nestled on one of Chicago Botanic Garden’s nine interconnected islands totaling 385 acres and six miles of lake shoreline. The Enabling Garden itself consists of three interconnecting outside “rooms” enclosed by lattice walls and interlaced with flowers, vegetables and vines.

enabling garden

Latticed walls encourage movement and interest through the green space.

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    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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