Open Voices Blog

Archives for posts tagged as "Awards"

Happy New Year from Nature Sacred

12/27/16 | View Comments

As 2016 comes to an end, we invite you to pause, breathe, and express thankfulness for what is positive in the life-world around you. We are thankful for plants which provide oxygen, shelter, and encourage positive thoughts. We are thankful for the wildflowers popping up through the cracks, the landscapers who install native plantings, and the urban planners who plan our cities for health.

As you spend the coming days with friends and family, visit one of these Nature Sacred sites, or a green space nearby where ever you are, for a moment of personal renewal and social connection. You can read more about these spaces and the emerging research findings on our awards page.

Naval Cemetery Landscape in Brooklyn, NY

 As one node of the Brooklyn Greenway Initiative – a 14-mile commuting route for non-motorized transportation – the Naval Cemetery Landscape project provides restorative relief to individuals from the urban environment. Sited atop an old cemetery at the former Brooklyn Navy Yard, this new meadow will revitalize the native plant and pollinator populations in the region and attract other forms of life that depend on thriving numbers of these native inhabitants. It opened in summer 2016.

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Nature heals us, How?

04/28/15 | 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. In April, we talk with several companies and initiatives developing meaningful places in our cities.

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of organizations supporting nature access in our cities. This year’s Earth Day alone was a reminder of the many people working to make our cities healthy, meaningful, and liveable. Our collective conscious is becoming more aware of how modern life disrupts our connection to nature and our bodies. And more research every day shows how urban green spaces improve health. This April we have highlighted several organizations who are doing their own research or advocacy for green spaces. We close out this month by taking a closer look at several projects and publications within our Nature Sacred National Awards Program.

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Researching the Relationship between Nature and Health Care: An Interview with Dr. Alar Mirka

10/03/13 | 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.

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?

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Natural Design for Better Health: An Interview with Dr. Roger Ulrich

09/24/13 | 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.

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.

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Cultivating Resilient Spaces in the City: A Q&A with Dr. Erika Svendsen

09/11/13 | 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.

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.

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Recommended Reading: Grantee Project in Joplin, MO Making Progress

09/10/13 | View Comments

This past weekend students from Drury University who are working on a TKF grantee project, the Landscapes of Resilience project in Joplin, MO, finished up interviewing nearly 25 victims of the devastating storm from May 2011. After finishing the in-person interviews, the students will begin transcribing the emotional accounts that will then be featured on large story boards in the new Butterfly Garden and Overlook in Cunningham Park, which is was designed by Drury architecture students.

Survivors like John DeGraff felt compelled to share their stories because the garden is located in the same spaces that the residents of Joplin braved the severely destructive storm. “It means something to me on a personal level that there is something going in there that will tell everyone what we went through, what we are going through,” DeGraff said. “Telling these stories is part of the rebuilding process.”

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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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Learning a Love of Nature in the City: A Q&A with Sara Hobel

08/15/13 | 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.

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.

Sara Hobel at the Urban Agricultural Conference this year.

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?

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Designing the Naval Cemetery Landscape: An Interview with the Landscape Architects of Nelson Byrd Woltz

08/06/13 | View Comments

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.

Thomas Woltz

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.

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Announcing Our National Awards Recipients: Six Projects That Demonstrate the Healing Power of Nature!

06/20/13 | View Comments

nature sacred logo
Today, we are proud to announce our National Awards Recipients! We are awarding $4.5 million in grants to six unique projects across the nation that will demonstrate the healing power of nature. These projects will demonstrate how nearby nature in the city can provide sacred and spiritual experiences.

We are also happy to announce that we are now known as Nature Sacred. Our goal is to help others improve health in communities across the country, and we wanted our new name to reflect that.

You can read in-depth profiles of each project and their plans here.

Please explore our brand-new website at, and let us know your thoughts!

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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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