Open Voices Blog

Archives for posts tagged as "Urban Planning"

Riots, Respite and Renewal in West Baltimore

04/12/17 | View Comments

From the outside, it could be easy to make assumptions about Sandtown-Winchester—the West Baltimore neighborhood where Freddie Gray was fatally arrested two years ago today. Vacant, dilapidated homes and boarded-up storefronts tell a candid story—a story of persistent poverty, crime, and misfortune. Yet, if you look closely, bright glimmers of promise and progress dot the urban landscape in some surprising ways.

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A Brief History of Urban Infrastructure

03/01/16 | View Comments

Grey Infrastructure

In the mid-19th century the “sanitary idea”, proposed by Edwin Chadwick in England, stressed the importance of the physical environment and the role of decaying organic matter as the source of disease. Sanitary engineering solutions emerged, focused on rapid and efficient disposal of urban wastes and providing clean water.

A New York sanitation worker in the 19th century. Source.

A New York City sanitation worker in the 19th century. Source.

What we now call Grey Infrastructure emerged during the 19th century alongside industrialization in many parts of the world.

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Can Community Spaces Relieve Stress?

02/17/15 | 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 February, we look at the roots of the TKF Foundation’s mission to provide public greenspaces that offer temporary sanctuary, encourage reflection, provide solace and engender peace and well being.

Can community green spaces help relieve the stress from everyday tasks and life events? And, what might be special about nearby green spaces?

It doesn’t take a scientist to know that a nearby park helps you feel better and spend time with your family. But does science have anything to say about stress and nearby nature spaces? We know that simple visual exposure to nearby nature (such as window views and green roadsides) alone or combined with moderate activity in green spaces can effectively reduce stress. Multiple studies demonstrate the restorative benefits of nature when participants complete a stressful task followed by prompts of natural or built areas. Blood pressure lowers when study subjects look out a window with a view of trees. Nature walks are associated with blood pressure improvement, better task performance, and decreased anger compared to results of an urban walk! 1 And,we know that our heart rates decrease more rapidly with a window view of a natural scene compared to a view of a blank wall or a natural scene presented on a plasma screen.2

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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

Open Voices: For many, nature and the city seem to be opposing forces. How do you approach breaking down that concept as an urban planner?

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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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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 2

12/02/13 | 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.

How San Francisco Is Changing the Way People Think of Green Space
“Tables and chairs sit neatly arranged on a wooden platform in the heart of San Francisco’s Mission District. When the sun is shining, customers spill out of cafes and restaurants and crowd onto the platform. But this isn’t just outdoor seating. It’s a park. The platform is part of San Francisco’s Pavement to Parks program, a collaboration between the city planning department and a number of other municipal agencies, including the mayor’s office. The program converts squares of pavement into plazas and postage-stamp-sized parks, called parklets. It started four years ago as a kind of experiment and has since become a fixture of civic life in San Francisco.”

Michigan: Leslie Science & Nature Center Teams with Ann Arbor Hospitals to Help Patients Heal

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Open Voices News Roundup: October 14

10/14/13 | 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.

How Trees Can Boost a Home’s Sale Price
“Maybe money grows on trees after all. In an analysis of 2,608 real-estate transactions over 10 months, researchers found that homes with “street trees,” those planted between the sidewalk and street, sold for $7,130 more, on average, than homes without street trees. What’s more, homes with street trees sold 1.7 days more quickly than homes without street trees, says Geoffrey Donovan, an economist at the U.S. Forest Service’s Pacific Northwest Research Station in Portland, Ore. Neighbors can reap the benefits as well. Homeowners who live within 100 feet of street trees enjoy a sale premium of $1,688, on average, even though the trees aren’t on their property…The advantages of trees go well beyond mere aesthetics, Mr. Donovan says. “There’s increasing evidence that there are huge public health consequences of living in a city. Not everyone can live next to Central Park. Trees are a way of modifying this urban environment.” Other research conducted by Mr. Donovan shows that street trees are associated with cleaner air, lower energy use and lower crime.”

Park Equipment Offering Outdoor Alternative to Gyms

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Open Voices News Roundup: October 7

10/07/13 | 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.

Redesigning New York’s Hidden Public Spaces to Create A More Resilient City
“It’s a little known fact that some 5.3 million square feet of “leftover” space courses through Manhattan, largely wasted. It’s street-related filler space–the concrete medians in the middle of streets, the odd-shaped traffic medians–that few people think about, but it totals up to be the equivalent square footage of about 92 football fields…What if some of the more generous central medians throughout New York’s street system were turned into green infrastructure: parklets that have been keenly designed to absorb and funnel storm water; generate solar electricity; and recycle food waste, which is another matter that Mayor Bloomberg is championing these days in the spirit of saving roughly $100 million a year by diverting organic residential waste from landfills.”

Of Goats And Gardens: Making Sense Of Urban Agriculture In LA

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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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