Open Voices Blog

Archives for posts tagged as "Urbanism"

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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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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Recommended Reading: Boosting Immune Systems with Biodiversity

11/12/13 | View Comments

When you come down with a bad case of the sniffles or an unruly cough, our 21st century sensibilities say you need to wash your hands even more and make sure to get rid of all the germs. But research suggests that exposure to greater biodiversity, especially when it comes to bacteria and microbes, may be what actually helps prevent allergies and weakened immune systems.

A study in Finland found that individuals who lived in houses surrounded by a greater diversity of life, closer to the wilds of nature, were covered with different kinds of microbes. They were also less likely to show the telltale immunological signs of allergies.

Less bio-diverse systems such as grasslands, forests, or the tiny life-forms on our skin and in our guts, are less resilient and at greater risk of invasion (whether by pathogens or weeds) than more diverse systems, according to the research.

One way to think about the study was that the key was bacteria; the lock was our immune systems. It is feasible that urban dwellers are too distant from microbial nature for their immune systems to develop properly. The more in touch with the grit and dirt of nature, our protection against allergies and illness becomes stronger and more fully developed.

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Guest Post: Join the Fall Celebration of Trees and Green Communities

09/26/13 | View Comments

This is a guest post from Leland Milstein, Program Director at Alliance for Community Trees (ACTrees)

Every October, community groups, city residents, local government, and volunteers across the country unite for greener communities during Alliance for Community Trees’ National NeighborWoods® Month.Together, they’ll plant trees, green up neighborhood parks, restore natural areas, eliminate invasives, and educate youth about trees, the environment, and sustainability.

It’s a coast-to-coast campaign to take action for trees in our communities. There’s lots to celebrate, and a lot at stake. Last year, the U.S. Forest Service found that tree cover in urban areas of the U.S. is on the decline at a rate of about 4 million trees per year.

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Recommended Reading: Taking Your Brain for a Walk in the Park

09/26/13 | View Comments

A recent study conducted on a group of students as they walked through different urban settings in Edinburgh, Scotland, has provided quantifiable evidence that the brain operates in a more meditative state when surrounded by nature. We’ve had philosophers try to tell us that nature is calming and peaceful, but with the use of mobile EEG scans of students’ brains, we can now see the proof.

The results showed that in more urban areas, where social interaction was more frequent, excitement in the brain remained high. But moving into a park “produced a greater mental change than leaving the park, indicating lingering mental benefits of natural surroundings.”

Even more exciting is the news that the team of scientists working on this study has just received a grant for $2 million to continue their research on older subjects. These studies will have a profound impact on the field of environmental psychology, which helps us evaluate how people perceive and interact with their surroundings.

>> Learn more about the study here.

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Open Voices News Roundup: September 16

09/16/13 | 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.

More Green, Less Diabetes Finds Australian Study
“Being out in nature has been shown to improve creativity and cognitive function, as well as increase the likelihood of exercise for weight maintenance. A new study finds that when you live in an area that has more green and open spaces, you are less likely to develop Type 2 diabetes as well. Researchers with the University of Western Sydney (Australia) studied data on more than 267,000 people living in New South Wales who were part of the 45 and Up Study. They used information from the Australian Bureau of Statistics to calculate levels of green space. People living in neighborhoods with more green and open spaces had lower rates of Type 2 diabetes. For those in areas with at least 40% green space, the rate of Type 2 diabetes was 8% versus 9.1% for those in neighborhoods that were less than 20% green space.”

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Upcoming Event: PARK(ing) Day at a Meter Near You

09/12/13 | View Comments

When you’ve successfully searched through your car, purse, and pockets for all remaining change to feed a parking meter, that small plot of land is officially yours for the time you have paid for. On PARK(ing) Day, Friday, September 20, you are encouraged to think outside the parking spot and not just use it for your car, but to transform it into a temporary park in efforts to spread the message that we need more urban public spaces.

PARK(ing) Day is global and open-source event when people transform traditional metered parking spots into temporary public spaces. The event’s mission is to bring attention to the need for more urban open spaces and to generate a healthy debate around how public space is created and allocated, while temporarily improving a slice of urban human habitats by introducing some park-like qualities where urban nature is lacking.

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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.

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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.

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