News and conversations about the growing evidence of the healing power of nature and green development in cities
Charles Montgomery will be the first to admit to you that he did not start off as an urban planner or a neuroscientist. He started his journey that led to his most recent book, Happy City, as a curious journalist wanting to learn more about what it means to be happy and how our environment, social and physical, plays a role in happiness.
His curiosity led him down a path where he learned more about urban design, the emerging science of happiness and how the two overlap. He has used the insights gained from his research to drive experiments such as those mentioned below with the BMW Guggenheim Lab, as well as in advising urban planners, students and policy-makers around the world including the Canada, England and the U.S.
Open Voices had the opportunity to talk with Montgomery about his work and how he sees the connections between environment and happiness being applied to green spaces in urban communities.
Open Voices: To start off, how have you developed such an interesting intersection of interests with urban planning and researching happiness?Read more
Taking time to get in tune with your surroundings and learn to love nature has proven a therapeutic process for many, including Naomi Sachs. Sachs is Founding Director of the Therapeutic Landscapes Network and writes the corresponding blog, but has taken the research on connections between healing and nature a step further in her latest project.
She has been able to translate a personal passion for nature into a new book, co-written by Clare Cooper Marcus, which just came out this week called Therapeutic Landscapes: An Evidence-Based Approach to Designing Healing Gardens and Restorative Outdoor Spaces. The new publication has been long-anticipated and referenced as the “single most comprehensive and authoritative guide to designing healing gardens and restorative outdoor spaces.”
We were able to chat with Naomi around the release of her new book and discuss her work on this project and what she hopes the book can achieve for healthcare and design.Read more
For the brave men and women returning home from serving their country, mental and physical health are top priorities. The Green Road grantee project at Naval Support Activity Bethesda, home of Walter Reed national Military Medical Center, is seeking to provide these military service members with a more holistic approach to their healing from wartime.
Addressing health and well-being in conjunction with exposure to nature for these military service members is hoped to help improve the healing process. Dr. Brian Berman, president of the Institute for Integrative Health, studies and practices integrative medicine including mind/body approaches to healing that will be critical in the research conducted as a part of the Green Road Project.
We had the opportunity to ask Dr. Berman a few questions about his work with the Green Road Project.
Open Voices: How did you become involved with the Green Road Project?Read more
Time spent in a hospital is filled with a lot of challenges, whether it is on the doctor’s side of trying to provide the best medical care, or families and patients staying strong through incidents of injury or illness. Having a place in a medical facility to help relieve some of the stress that comes with those trying times seemed like a perfect opportunity for Dr. Alar Mirka and his research team to study whether a sacred space like a garden could do the trick.
Dr. Mirka manages all clinical research activity at Legacy and works with a variety of research teams across the Legacy facilities, and will be leading the three studies associated with our grantee project A Nature Place. He has had extensive experience as a practicing internist, which allows for him to understand the kinds of environments and stressors under observation in this project.
We had the opportunity to speak with Dr. Mirka about his experience so far working on A Nature Place.
Open Voices: What is your role in A Nature Place?Read more
Hospitals are critical sites for addressing the health and well-being of surrounding populations. Unfortunately time spent in the hospital is usually associated with high stress levels, whether you or a loved one is getting ready for a surgical procedure, having labor contractions or you’re keeping a vigilant eye on patients with a variety of different needs. Dr. Roger Ulrich is working with the team at Legacy Emanuel Medical Center in Portland, OR, to provide relief for these stressed groups through access to nature.
A Nature Place and the corresponding research conducted on three different groups’ use of a beautiful new and accessible garden at the medical center is drawing on Dr. Ulrich’s expertise in healthcare design. Dr. Ulrich is a professor of architecture at the Center for Healthcare Building Research at Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden, and is adjunct professor of architecture at Aalborg University in Denmark.Read more
When one thinks of the U.S. Forest Service, you wouldn’t necessarily think of New York City. That is not the case for Dr. Erika Svendsen and her colleagues at the New York City Urban Field Station. Her work focuses on how systems of environmental stewardship “shape new forms of governance, collective resilience, sacred space and human well-being,” which made her a perfect partner for the Landscapes of Resilience project.
Drawing on past research on the city, people and the environment, Svendsen and her colleagues will be studying the ways in which the people of Joplin, MO and New York City have each turned to using greening as a mechanism for recovery after natural disasters. We had the opportunity to sit down with Erika and learn more about her work in New York for the project.Read more
Neither Nancy Chikaraishi, AIA, or Traci Sooter, AIA , LEED AP, are strangers to applying their skills as architects to help their local community. Both based out of Drury University’s Hammons School of Architecture, the team has helped instill the values of giving back in their students through projects helping to rebuild the nearby city of Joplin, MO following the devastating tornado in 2011.
While working together to facilitate the grant for the Landscapes of Resilience project, Chikaraishi and Sooter are making the major moves toward beginning to turn the designs for the park in Joplin into a beautiful and healing reality. The two experienced architects and professors took the time to talk with us on the plans for this project and how it has been progressing thus far.Read more
Building on her previous experiences as an advocate for the benefits of nature, such as leading up the Urban Park Rangers in New York, Sara Hobel continues to help New Yorkers find the wilder and greener side of the city as the executive director of the Horticultural Society of New York.
Her latest efforts involve partnering with Milton Puryear and the Brooklyn Greenway Initiative in planning and executing the Naval Cemetery Landscape project, one of our National Award grantees. Hobel took the time to speak with us on the ongoing plans for the project and her work to educate city-folk on the restorative qualities of nature.
Open Voices: Can you give us some context on the partnership between the Brooklyn Greenway Initiative and the Horticultural Society of New York?Read more
The landscape architecture firm Nelson Byrd Woltz is dedicated to the integration of respect for nature and design. They will be partnering with the Brooklyn Greenway Initiative, one of our National Award winners, on the Naval Cemetery Landscape project to develop a peaceful natural space for commuters along the greenway.
We had a chance to sit down with Thomas Woltz, FASLA, CLARB, Principal of Nelson Byrd Woltz, and Jeffrey Longhenry, Senior Associate on the Naval Cemetery project, to discuss their approach to this particular landscape design.
Open Voices: What role do you envision having in the development of the Naval Cemetery Landscape project?
Thomas Woltz: The role of Nelson Byrd Woltz will be to envision a sustainable landscape design for this important, sacred ground that reveals the many layers of history of the site. It’s a design meant to honor not just the individuals buried there — many of whose names we do not know — but also to honor the cultural traces of this place as a farm, then a hospital burial ground, and a navy yard burial ground, and to remind people that the stories of land live on and uses change.Read more
The International Making Cities Livable Council is an interdisciplinary, international network of individuals and cities dedicated to making our cities and communities more livable. Board member, Suzanne Lennard, Ph.D. (Arch), is one of the co-founders of the International Making Cities Livable Conference and has held many academic posts from University of California, Berkley all the way to Brookes University in Oxford, England. Through her vision, the IMCL Conferences pay special attention to the indispensable role of public spaces for connecting the city’s inhabitants and developing community. These Conferences are organized around the idea that we must make our cities “not only ecologically sound, but also socially sustainable.”
Following the recent 49th IMCL Conference in Portland, Oregon, Lennard provided us with critical context on just what makes a city livable, and some of the contextual history on how our nation’s cities and suburbs strayed from livability—and what we can learn from other counties in getting back to healthy, livable places to live, learn and play.Read more