Open Voices Blog

Archives for posts tagged as "Cities"

Encountering the Civic Sacred

12/01/15 | View Comments

Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where Nature may heal and cheer and give strength to body and soul alike.
John Muir

The Nature Sacred Principle is sponsored by the TKF family foundation, which has funded intimate, open, urban green spaces in the mid-Atlantic region of the U.S. for more than 20 years. The Principle asserts that exposure to nearby nature environments, particularly in cities, can offer sanctuary, solace, reflection, and mindful interaction. These transformational encounters benefit users and surrounding communities.

Banyan trees in Hawaii create community meeting spots. Credit: Eddi Miglavs

Banyan trees in Hawaii create community meeting spots. Credit: Eddi Miglavs

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Thankful for Smart Environments

11/25/14 | 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. This November we share in recognition of the 2014 Annual Meeting of the American Society of Landscape Architects.

A couple of years ago we talked with Tim Beatley, founder of the Biophilic Cities Project, about his aims to explore innovative ways cities can incorporate nature into design and planning. This project is devoted to understanding how cities can become more biophilic, more full of nature, and to telling the stories of the places and people working to creatively build these urban-nature connections. As the site notes:

We need nature in our lives more than ever today, and as more of us are living in cities it must be urban nature. Biophilic Cities are cities that contain abundant nature; they are cities that care about, seek to protect, restore and grow this nature, and that strive to foster deep connections and daily contact with the natural world. Nature is not something optional, but absolutely essential to living a happy, healthy and meaningful life.

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Nature and Cities: An Interview with Armando Carbonell

02/26/14 | View Comments

About half of the world’s population currently lives in urban regions, making the future of our cities a topic of high priority in terms of social and environmental issues. That’s why this weekend, some of the chief thought leaders in the fields of urban design, development and planning are convening in Austin, Texas, for the Nature and Cities conference. There, they’ll be discussing the integral relationship between nature and urban ecological design and planning.

Ecological understanding has taken a front seat in the world of urban planning, and the conference’s organizers hope to foster lively discussion around how nature and cities work together.

Open Voices spoke with with Armando Carbonell, one of the organizers of the conference and a Senior Fellow and Chairman of the Department of Planning and Urban Form at the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, about his perspective on the interaction between nature and cities — as well as his hopes for the conference.

Armando Carbonell

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Constructing a Happy City: An Interview with Charles Montgomery

01/08/14 | View Comments

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?

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Open Voices News Roundup: January 6

01/06/14 | 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.

Urban Nature: How to Foster Biodiversity in World’s Cities
“A few years ago in Baltimore County, Maryland, environmental staffers were reviewing a tree-planting proposal from a local citizens group. It called for five trees each of 13 different species, as if in an arboretum, on the grounds of an elementary school in a densely-populated neighborhood. It seemed like a worthy plan, both for the volunteer effort and the intended environmental and beautification benefits. Then someone pointed out that there were hardly any oaks on the list, even though the 22 oak species native to the area are known to be wildlife-friendly. Local foresters, much less local wildlife, could barely recognize some of the species that were being proposed instead…Though it may be too soon to call it an urban wildlife movement, initiatives focused on urban biodiversity seem to be catching on. The U.S. Forest Service, which once laughed off the idea that anything urban could be wild now supports a growing urban forest program.”

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Open Voices News Roundup: December 23

12/23/13 | 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.

Hiking in a Winter Wonderland
“Just because temperatures have dropped doesn’t mean outdoor efforts to elevate your heart rate should take a nose dive, too. New York City offers many walking trails and paths through scenic, wooded parks and along breathtaking waterways. “Winter is a great time to get out and see the parks in a new way once the trees have shed all of their leaves,” said Sarah Aucoin, director of the Urban Park Rangers program, which offers guided hikes and walks in the city’s park all year. “You can see wildlife and get your heart pumping at the same time.” If you struggle to stay active in the winter, walking may inspire you to get outdoors. Dr. Susan Kansagra, deputy commissioner for the division of health promotion and disease prevention at the New York City health department, said that regular walking helps reduce the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes, osteoporosis, and colon and breast cancer.”

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Open Voices News Roundup: December 16

12/16/13 | 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.

‘Wild Urbanism’ in the Middle of Putin’s Moscow
“Just beyond Moscow’s Red Square, past the iconic domes of St. Basil’s Cathedral and the walls of the Kremlin, a new landmark is planned for Russia’s largest metropolis. In a nod to the city’s increasingly globalized identity, the new landmark will not come solely from the church or government. Instead, it will be a 13-acre park open to everyone and developed by a team of internationally renowned architects best known for designing the glam High Line in Manhattan. Inspired by the ecological diversity of Russia, Zaryadye Park will be the first new park built in Moscow since 1958, rising on a former Jewish ghetto once slated for Stalin’s tallest skyscrapers… Under the vision hatched by Diller Scofido + Renfro and Putin’s administration, free-flowing walkways and permeable pavers will encourage exploration through park areas designed to recall Russia’s varied landscapes of tundra, steppe, forest and wetlands.”

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Mayors for Parks Coalition: Protecting Public Spaces

12/11/13 | View Comments

From Denver, CO to Fort Worth, TX, a new bipartisan coalition is on the rise to help support and protect public parks, trails and green spaces in urban areas. The Mayors for Parks coalition, a project from the City Parks Alliance, is aiming to remind Congress and the White House how critical parks are to urban areas.

The coalition is specifically pushing for reauthorization and robust funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), which is set to expire in 2015, and is a critical source of funding for city parks in the US. Since its creation in 1965, the LWCF has funded the creation of more than 42,000 state and local parks, playgrounds, urban wildlife refuges, greenways, trails, and other open spaces. But the LWCF has been underfunded by millions of dollars the past few years.

There are five other mayors from cities across the country joining Mayors Betsey Price of Fort Worth and Michael Hancock of Denver in their commitment to protecting urban parks and the funding that keeps them running. The mayors are looking to expand the coalition as they all realize how vital these parks are to the health and happiness of their citizens.

Below is one of the videos release along with the launch of the coalition:

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Open Voices News Roundup: December 9

12/09/13 | 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.

Doctor’s orders: Get outside!
“We all know the drill: Get sick. Go to the doctor. Receive a prescription for medicine. Take the medicine until you feel better. But what if, instead of being handed a prescription for medication at the end of your appointment, you instead received a prescription for spending more time outdoors? That’s the premise behind a new Boston-area program piloted by the Appalachian Mountain Club and MassGeneral Hospital for Children. The program, called “Outdoors Rx,” focuses on children 13 years of age and under and capitalizes on the natural resources right in its patients’ backyards. “There’s a growing body of research looking at the benefits of the outdoors on kids. For mental, physical and spiritual health, the outdoors is good for you. It reduces the symptoms of ADD and ADHD, asthma and childhood obesity,” said Pam Hess, Outdoors Rx’s program director.”

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Recommended Reading: First National Study of Urban parks and Physical Activity

12/05/13 | View Comments

How does your proximity and use of local parks contribute to your health? City Parks Alliance and the RAND Corporation will be investigating that question over the next four years in hopes of establishing a set of best practices when it comes to managing urban parks and encouraging physical activity.

The study will include 200 different parks in 25 U.S. cities that were all randomly selected. The project will include training for park personnel and members of the communities that use the parks to act as “citizen scientists” to help collect objective data for the study.

The process of researching and the results that emerge from this study will help park professionals better understand how certain management techniques can impact the amount and type of physical activity taking place in these natural, yet urban, settings.

Learn more about the study here.

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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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