Open Voices Blog

Archives for posts tagged as "design"

TKF Foundation’s Urban Park Vision

02/28/17 | View Comments

On a trip to England in 1995, Tom and Kitty Stoner visited an urban park tucked in the midst of a busy London neighborhood. This serene and protected park was used by many as a place of refuge during World War II. Wooden benches lined the walking path. On the back of many of the benches were the reflections of those who experienced a sense of community and solace in this special place during the worst days of WWII.

It was Tom and Kitty’s belief that if an urban green space could provide such a place of sanctuary at such a difficult time in history, perhaps places conceived and created by urban communities in our time could also provide opportunities for reflection and rejuvenation. From this idea – and with this desire – the TKF Foundation was formed.

Open Spaces Sacred Places, today and in the future

Now over 20 years later, we celebrate 130 “Open Spaces Sacred Places” that demonstrate how real-world civic green spaces function, and their meaning in communities. These TKF-supported spaces, scattered across the United States, exist in communities of need (hospitals, urban centers, natural disaster areas) and arose out of community expression. In addition, the spaces share four central design elements. The design elements arose out of that initial moment with Tom and Kitty, and came to fruition using historic design of sacred spaces, design literature, and community expression.

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Future of Blue Spaces

10/18/16 | View Comments

Nearly all of our human settlements have sprung from nearby water supplies.

A clean and accessible water source allows new villages and cities to grow. Evolutionary biologists would argue that our modern day romance with lake and ocean-views ties back to our original search for such life-giving places. But in today’s rising sea levels and climate change fueled storms, the future of “blue spaces” depends on our relationship and response to the water around us.

A sitting area near the waterfront at a NatureSacred site.

A sitting area near the waterfront at a NatureSacred site.

Several scientists write about the calming effects of waterscapes. A marine biologist-turned-neuroscientist, Wallace Nichols, believes people will more likely care and act to conserve our oceans if they are aware and appreciate the positive feelings we have around water.

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Japanese Garden Design, Perception, and Wellness

04/05/16 | View Comments

Within the theory and practice of garden design exists the concept of ‘patterns’. Patterns are not rules, but general guidelines suggesting how people and a setting can be ‘in sync’. Some patterns suggest ways in which a green space can provide healing benefit to visitors. For example, the pattern ‘Wondering in Small Spaces’ describes how even small green spaces can be designed in such a way to evoke the imagination (mental wondering) or provide viewpoints where visitors survey the garden’s extent, feeling secure and inspired. Consider an experience in a Japanese garden:

The mind wonders when the eyes perceive a landscape filtered through the lacy leaves of a Japanese Maple. Intimate, smooth paths wind around a bend into a hidden nook. A bamboo water fountain clanks as the weight of the water rolls through it.

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An Experience Within Green Infrastructure

03/22/16 | View Comments

This month we’ve briefly reviewed the shifts in large-scale urban infrastructure design. Effective technological innovations in transportation, communications, energy, and environmental services (water, wastewater, garbage disposal) in the 19th and early 20th century enabled economic growth, and contributed to the physical transformation of city planning and development.

Today, cities across the globe are embracing ‘sustainable’ or ‘green’ infrastructure initiatives to re-design failing, ‘grey’ engineered systems. Many are embracing innovations that sidestep an old structure entirely. For example, Vietnam, a country of coastal views, aims to join global “Green Cities” such as Stockholm and Singapore, by implementing large scale urban changes in three cities in the northern and central provinces. To become a Green City, standards of green space, constructions, transport and industry are met.

Green infrastructure can serve multiple functions, including public health.

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Design and Fund Accessible Gardens

02/09/16 | View Comments

Landscape architects incorporate Universal Design Principles into spaces to allow inclusive, accessible use. Adequate shade areas, seating, and easy to maneuver paths are some of the key elements of thoughtfully designed gardens. Community garden leaders, Firesouls, and others who may not have a design degree can create inclusive spaces using found materials and easily implemented ideas. Tailoring spaces according to community needs is essential.

Accessible garden 'A Wider Circle' soon after installation of shade trellis and smooth paths.

A Wider Circle, an accessible garden in a D.C. public housing residence soon after a TKF grant supported the installation of plants, a shade trellis and smooth paths.

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The city has been likened to a poem…

12/22/15 | 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 week we examine the aesthetic and poetic elements of civic sacred. 

“The city has been likened to a poem, a sculpture, a machine. But the city is more than a text, and more than an artistic or technological artifact. It is a place where natural forces pulse and millions of people live–thinking, feeling, dreaming, doing. An aesthetic of urban design must therefore be rooted in the normal processes of nature and of living. It should link function, feeling, and meaning and should engage the senses and the mind.”

In The Poetics of City and Nature, a writer calls for a new aesthetic theory of landscape and urban design. Anne Whiston Spirn wrote in 1988 that the idea of dialogue in creating a city is central. How we interact and move about in a city is the result of complex, overlapping and interweaving narratives.

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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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Our Aging Cities, Our Aging Bodies

07/14/15 | 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 health needs of older Americans and the array of healthy experiences found in Nature Sacred spaces.

Cultures over the past thousands of documented years (if not more!) incorporated gardens and trees in their origin stories or traveled to natural springs in search of health and healing.  Most of us deeply feel what some theorists call the theory of biophilia, the claim that humans have an innate affinity and need for contact with other living beings. If you are reading this, it is probably not news to you that green spaces in our urban neighborhoods are beneficial in many ways! An abundance of research over the past forty years provides evidence that spending time in metro green spaces can improve blood pressure, heart rate, stress hormone indicators (cortisol), white-blood cell count, attention, memory, mood, and self-esteem. For example, when humans garden our cognitive abilities improve, we experience pleasing sensory and aesthetic experiences and improved neural connections contributing to socio-emotional emotions. 1

The question is no longer ‘Do I benefit from nearby nature’? but, is many – ‘What is happening in our bodies, minds and interactions? What are other people experiencing? If this is something innate in us, are we missing out on life by living in cities?’
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Green Spaces for All to Enjoy

05/26/15 | 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 May, we examine the design elements that contribute to meaningful green spaces in our cities.

When planning for green spaces in a community, collaborating with potential users and residents is important for sustainable and relevant community green space systems. When we consider specific design elements of green spaces, research indicates there are some differences between ethnic and cultural groups concerning their preferences for nature experiences. Park-use patterns, preference for park settings, and constraints on park use can vary by race and ethnicity. It is important to recognize that culturally-dominant ideals of nature often are expressed in park planning and design, potentially overlooking preferences of minority users and limiting the experiences of all.

Below we present a few findings on differences in green space preference. But do take note, that when given a choice, people prefer natural environments with water features, large trees, “wild” plants, and appropriate landscape design. This is compared to built environments, and is found among people regardless of nationality or culture.

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Stunning Design, Real Community Space

05/19/15 | 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 week, we present an interview with Dr. Adrian Loo of Gardens by the Bay in Singapore. 

Nature Sacred: In your role as Director of Research and Horticulture at Gardens by the Bay, what are your main tasks and projects?

Dr. Loo: Strategically, my team’s role is to inspire science within the gardens – amongst the staff and building up the capacity to use science to resolve horticultural problems.  We have developed a research facility that includes a lab, tissue culture facilities and research conservatories.   We are constantly building up our breeding capabilities and propagate interesting horticultural ornamentals such as orchids, begonias, bromeliads, gesnerids etc.  A big part of the research also goes into soil science and aspects of plant physiology such as light levels, temperature and how flowering is affected by these.   The department also does plant interpretation and we write catchy descriptions of plants that are interesting and at the same time botanically accurate in terms of their identity as species or cultivars and their ethnobotanical uses.

Nature Sacred: The Gardens by the Bay is in its first few years of operation. It covers a large area in Marina Bay and offers multiple diverse garden areas. Can you tell us about some of the most popular sites?

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    TKF Foundation
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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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