Open Voices Blog

Archives for posts tagged as "Architecture"

A City’s History and Future in Place

04/14/15 | View Comments

Each month 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. In April, we talk with several companies and initiatives developing meaningful places in our cities.

“There is a sense that everyone wants to build more community”.

Linda Fordyce, one of the cofounders of the non-profit FireHouse Hostel and Museum, has her thumb on the pulse of changes happening in downtown Little Rock, Arkansas. The hostel, set to open this year, is housed in an old firehouse within the grounds of this southern city’s oldest municipal park. MacArthur Park was formally established as Little Rock’s first public park in 1892 when the US Army traded the Little Rock Arsenal’s land, located in what is now Downtown, to the City of Little Rock to “forever exclusively be devoted to the uses and purposes of a public park”. The hostel represents a link between the city’s past and future, with part of the building devoted to a Firehouse museum, and a progressive park plan creating green space opportunities for neighborhoods and international visitors.

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Recommended Reading: The Benefits of Urban Beekeeping

09/05/13 | View Comments

The increasing movement of people to urban city centers is also bringing other demographic shifts. This includes the business of beekeeping, which is growing in popularity on rooftop gardens in urban areas.

“Elevator B,” an architectural beehive designed by students at the University of Buffalo (image: Hive City)

The rise of city-dwelling bees is also producing a symbiotic relationship with their human neighbors. Bees are essential for pollination in urban environments, and the growing awareness of the benefits of local produce and LEED-certified buildings has spurred interest in rooftop gardening. Buildings also benefit from bees in less conventional ways, such as serving as a disincentive for theft. Criminals and honest citizens agree: no one likes bee stings.

The increased popularity of urban beekeeping is also demonstrating how nature can inspire architecture. A group of architecture students at the University of Buffalo built a honeycomb-inspired building where people can observe the bees that are so busy working to keep our ecosystem blooming.

>>Learn more about the benefits of bees here.

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Recommended Reading: Growing benefits of Green Walls

08/29/13 | View Comments

There are many innovative ways to introduce more greenspace into the concrete jungles of urban areas. Though there may not always be enough land to cultivate a community garden, landscape architects are starting to think more vertically. Green walls, or a vertical garden, can have a positive impact on cities from improving the aesthetic to numerous environmental and health benefits.

Photo courtesy of the Creative Commons on Flickr, taken by Vincent Brassine

By covering the surface of a building with greenery it can help cut down on the heat conduction of the building, which contributes to the “heat island” effect, raising temperatures both outside and inside the building. This can help lower energy costs and create a more breathable microclimate. Green walls can even be used to introduce fresh produce into urban areas that do not have easy access to healthy options. In Canada, green walls were even brought indoors to help offset Seasonal Affective Disorder caused by long winters.

While green walls may have been around since the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the trend of moving vertical with gardening practices should be revived in the U.S. to help create happier and healthier environments.

>>Learn more about green walls here.

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Resilient Design: An Interview with Nancy Chikaraishi and Traci Sooter

08/22/13 | View Comments

Open Voices is taking the opportunity to get to know some of the different team members from our National Awards grantee projects. You can find previous interviews with other team members here.

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.

Nancy Chikaraishi

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.

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Recommended Reading: Designing with Nature in Mind

07/17/13 | View Comments

Healthcare design in the past favored stark white and institutional structures that promoted a sense of cleanliness. But research shows that poor design strategies can actually have a negative effect on patients — inhibiting recovery, increasing anxiety and even increasing the amount of medication prescribed.

Biophilia is essentially the innate attraction people feel toward nature. It pushes us to seek a balance between the built and the natural in our surroundings. Incorporating the concept of Biophilia into healthcare and the design of healthcare facilities can also help lead to happier and healthier patients and providers, according to Healthcare Design Magazine’s recent white paper on Biophilic design.

“A 2011 study conducted at the University of Oregon revealed that 10 percent of employee absences could be attributed to architectural elements that did not connect with nature, and that a person’s view was the primary predictor of absenteeism (Elzeyadi). When asked to rate scenes according to their preference, the building’s occupants heavily favored the vegetated views over the urban views, and either view over none at all. Furthermore, employees with natural landscape views took an average of 57 hours of sick leave per year compared to the 68 hours taken by employees with no view at all.”

>> Read the full white paper here.

 

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Open Voices News Roundup: June 10

06/10/13 | View Comments

Every week, we bring you the latest news in placemaking, landscape architecture, the nature-mental health link, and much more. Check back each week for new roundups and items.

Is Our Disconnect From Nature a Disorder?
“Somewhere during the American experience, between Teddy Roosevelt and color TV, being outdoors and maybe even working up a sweat started to lose its universal appeal. There remain those who fetishize the outdoors, from Ted Nugent to REI shoppers, and the urge to connect with nature never vanished. But as Americans became more urban and more cocooned in their cars and air conditioning, the values of nature were honored more by their absence than in their activities.”

Pictures: Green Walls May Cut Pollution in Cities
“A living wall bursts with vegetation at Paris’s Musée du Quai Branly — a type of green wall that’s catching on in some big cities. These vegetated surfaces don’t just look pretty. They have other benefits as well, including cooling city blocks, reducing loud noises, and improving a building’s energy efficiency. (See a complete list of green wall benefits.) What’s more, a recent modeling study shows that green walls can potentially reduce large amounts of air pollution in what’s called a “street canyon,” or the corridor between tall buildings.”

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Open Voices News Roundup: March 18

03/18/13 | View Comments

Every week, we bring you the latest news in placemaking, landscape architecture, the nature-mental health link, and much more. Check back each week for new roundups and items.

A City Center Becomes a Garden
Aberdeen, a city in Scotland, is not only transforming its urban center into a garden and cultural center, but also making sure the proposed designs suit the needs of the public. An upcoming referendum will gauge public support for the designs created by landscape architects OLIN. OLIN writes that the new City Garden will be a “reinvigorated green heart of the city,” doubling the urban core’s current size. A key concept is to reconnect the dramatic landscape of Aberdeen with the city via a “web of paths.” This web will provide opportunities for visitors to explore a diverse set of gardens harking back to Aberdeen’s rich natural and cultural history.

Stronger Citizens, Stronger Cities: Changing Governance Through a Focus on Place

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Open Voices News Roundup: February 4

02/04/13 | View Comments

Every week, we bring you the latest news in placemaking, landscape architecture, the nature-mental health link, and much more. Check back each week for new roundups and items.

What Cities Can Do with Vacant Lots
The bursting of the housing bubble wreaked havoc on cities across the United States causing widespread blight in once-thriving community economies. Foreclosed, abandoned and condemned homes continue to pockmark neighborhoods and communities, adding to the vacant lots of populous but affected cities like Philadelphia. But the city has a strong drive to amend these conditions. With organizations like DesignPhiladelphia’s “Not a Vacant Lot” and the city’s Redevelopment Authority, some of this land is being put to good use.

City Life Changes How Our Brains Deal With Distractions
City life requires a lot of attention. Navigating a busy sidewalk while processing loud storefronts and avoiding rogue pigeons may feel like second-nature at times, but it’s actually quite a bit of work for the human brain. Psychologists do know that quick walks through the park can restore our focus, but they’re still getting a handle on just what urbanization means for human cognition.

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Open Voices News Roundup: September 4

09/04/12 | View Comments
Every week, we bring you the latest news in placemaking, landscape architecture, the nature-mental health link, and much more. This week: the economics of environmental conservation; how some buildings can heal; and where urban trees really come from.
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Recommended Reading: Corners of Green Serenity in Japan

08/29/12 | View Comments

From the New York Times comes a lovely article about “tsubo-niwa” — very small gardens that are popular in Japan, where urban apartments often can’t support a larger outdoors space.

Though these gardens and green spots are quite petite — often no larger than the same area that would be covered by a king-sized mattress — their popularity in Japan is growing, as people living in urban centers start to realize their need to connect with nature on a regular basis — even if it’s in a small way.

From the article:

“People feel isolated from nature and from a sense of geography. They want to feel the nature,” said Takeshi Hirobe, an architect based in Kawasaki City, near Tokyo. “The trees bring that into the house.”

And the concept of the tsubo-niwa is quickly growing outside of Japan, too. A Parisian architect has built up a clientele by designing his version of the gardens for their apartments. And the concept has even gone online: “Some horticultural companies are selling tsubo-niwa sets, with stone lanterns, gravel, bamboo fences and artificial plants, which can be ordered online and installed on a balcony or patio.”

What about you? If you live in an urban center with restricted space, would you buy a tsubo-niwa kit or install a small garden in your space? Tell us in the comments!

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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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