Defining the Elements that Make an ‘Open Space Sacred Place’

Over the past 20 years, TKF has collected thousands of journal entries left by visitors to our Open Spaces Sacred Places which we recently started sharing in a Friday weekly feature, #Benchstories. And while the journals are an important part of our Open Spaces Sacred Places, the thoughts recorded in them are often the culmination of a visitor’s experience at one of these sacred spaces. Every TKF Open Space Sacred Place includes four specific design elements which work together to support the TKF mission of offering a temporary place of sanctuary, encouraging reflection, providing solace and engendering peace. These design elements include a Portal, a Path, a Destination and a Surround–each of which serves an important purpose in the overall design of the space.

TKF Foundation Sacred Spaces Elements

Portal
The first design element you will find as you enter a TKF Open Place Sacred Space is a portal which the visitor passes through. This could be an archway, gate, trellis, overhanging trees or other marker of some sort. Passing through the portal marks the transition from the space of every day life to a reflective space where one can experience the power of nature.

Surround
The surround consists of design elements which define the boundary of the sacred space. It could consist of a small fence or plantings, a natural opening in the trees or even previously existing structures. No matter what it is made from, the surround creates a sense of security  and separation from the stress and challenges of everyday life.

Path
Walking a path allows visitors to focus their thoughts and achieve a mindfulness about their surroundings. It could be a straight path through garden plantings or a labyrinth that leads the visitor back and forth extending a smaller space. The meditative act of walking a path can ground one with the Earth while creating a connection to the greater sacredness of a specific space.

WaterworksDestination
The destination is an appealing feature or end point that draws the visitor into the space. It could consist of a beautiful view, a quite spot away from the noise of the city or just a place to sit, rest and experience the fascination, awe and tranquility that nature can provide.

When these features come together, they have the potential to empower and transform, if only temporarily, the people who visit the space.

Along with these four design elements, each TKF Open Spaces Sacred Place includes the following features:

Bench
More than just a place to sit, the bench in an Open Space Sacred Place invites the visitor to stop for a moment to rest, listen, think and experience all that a sacred place has to offer. Built from recycled pickle barrel wood by prison inmates, the benches also serve as a metaphor of the sacred experience on many different levels.

Journal
Located below each bench is a waterproof journal and pen that invites Open Space Sacred Places visitors to articulate and process their experiences. They also provide an opportunity for visitors to connect and share thoughts and nature inspired meditations with others. As visitors write in the journal, it becomes a living, changing, dynamic part of the Open Space Sacred Place.

Firesoul
While you may not visibly see a Firesoul while visiting an Open Space Sacred Place, their spirit lives throughout the space. Firesouls are the individuals that are passionate about creating, maintaining and sharing the healing, restorative powers of Open Spaces Sacred Places with others. It is the Firesouls that make these sacred spaces possible.

Travel to any of the TKF Open Spaces Sacred Places and you will see all of the above elements and features in some form. Their inclusion has been carefully incorporated to help visitors realize the mission of the TKF Foundation, a belief in the fundamental truth that exposure to nearby nature environments offering sanctuary, solace, reflection, and mindful interaction delivers transformational benefits to users and surrounding communities.

To learn more about the most recent TKF Open Spaces Sacred Places and the research being conducted at these sites, visit the National Awards section of our website. To plan your own visit to a TKF Foundation Open Space Sacred Place you can click here to see a list of our locations and get more information about each specific space.

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