The design of the 2.5 kilometre walk runs along the foreshore of Sydney Harbour from Pyrmont Bridge Road to Rozelle Bay. The project incorporates mangrove habitat reconstruction, decks, ramps, boardwalks, a beach, canoe launching ramp and pontoons within a context rich in industrial archaeology and maritime industry remnants.
Prince Arthur’s Landing transforms the City of Thunder Bay’s waterfront into a mixed-use village and animated waterfront park reconnecting the downtown to the shores of Lake Superior. The waterfront opened to the public December 2011, and has seen record attendance, the opening of several new businesses and over ten design excellence awards.
The project transforms a 14-hectare empty former industrial area into a temporary, recreational landscape that is integrated in the strategic, long-term urban development through the method process urbanism.
“Great presentation, but a little bit preaching to the choir,” said the woman sitting behind me at Sunday’s general session of the ASLA Annual Meeting in Boston. Indeed, when Dr. Stephen Kellert, the Tweedy Ordway Professor Emeritus of Social Ecology and Senior Research Scholar at the Yale University School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, took the stage to give his talk on biophilic design, he mentioned he felt strange presenting to a room full of landscape architects, as they are on the front line of designing humans’ relationship to nature.
Biophilia is the “inherent human need to affiliate with nature.” This need, while instrumental to our health and physical and mental well-being, is a “weak biological tendency that benefits from and is strengthened by learning.” Biophilic design strengthens and enforces our affiliation with nature, which leads to, simply stated, happier and healthier people.
If you read this blog with any regularity, there’s a good chance you’ve come across posts on biophilic design and the importance of nature in people’s everyday lives. You’ve seen posts that outline how nature is fundamentally good for us, providing benefits for our mental and physical well-being.
So why do we continuously preach to the choir? Dr. Kellert put it this way: while 99 percent of human evolution happened in the natural world, the modern “natural habitat of people is the built environment.” Consider these facts: 80 percent of the world’s people live in cities. We spend 90 percent of our time indoors. Children today spend just 40 minutes a week outside versus 52 hours a week in front of some sort of electronic media.
We continue to talk about because it’s not only critically important to our future, but because it’s not yet standard practice and needs to be. “We’re the only species in the world that needs to prove nature is important.” As he pointed out, it’s strange that the “exploitation of nature,” which accounts for 15 percent of the global economy, is accepted without question, while the aesthetics of the natural world is either seen as a luxury of the wealthy or something that’s really very nice, but not at all important.
The truth — a point that cannot be overstated and is also worth repeating — is that if we ignore the human need for contact with nature, one that is deeply rooted in human development, we do so at a risk to our mental and physical well-being. So a deeper understanding of the importance of the aesthetics of nature, and how they can be applied through biophilic design, needs to be explored.
The beauty of a place is actually very important. Beauty invites us in, and, through curiosity, which is the first step to engagement, promotes learning. Learning, in turn, enforces our biophilic needs. Beauty of place promotes a sense of stewardship for a natural setting, which leads to more time spent in nature, which in turn promotes our mental and physical well-being.
Biophilic design of landscapes and buildings mimics the aesthetic coherence and organizational symmetry of nature through emulation and design. It’s also an ancient practice, some of our most revered buildings and landscapes have an essence of natural settings, but it’s one that has fallen away in recent time with sprawl and auto-centric design.
But the negative trends in both human health and unsustainable communities can be reversed. As Dr. Kellert put it, “we designed ourselves into this predicament; we can design ourselves out of it.” At its core, biophilic design is not just a buzz word, it’s simply good design, but one that requires a new design ethic. Until then, he’ll continue to preach.
This guest post is by Heidi Petersen, ASLA 2013 intern and Master’s of Landscape Architecture candidate, Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT).
Image credits:(1) ASLA 2006 Professional General Design Honor Award. Small Is Beautiful. Eli Tahari courtyard. Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates / Elizabeth Felicella (2) ASLA 2012 Professional General Design Honor Award / Arizona State Polytechnic. Ten Eyck Landscape Architecture / Bill Timmerman, (3) ASLA 2013 Professional General Design Honor Award. A Mother River Recovered: Qian’an Sanlihe Greenway. Qian’an City, Hebei Province, China. Turenscape / Kongjian Yu, FASLA.
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Minnesota Mile – The Architect’s Newspaper, 11/6/13
“A trench drain and porous pavement in parts reduce stormwater runoff, along with an underground retention basin and periodic plantings of oaks, elms, aspens, maples and birch trees. The street meanders along Nicollet Mall, creating varied spaces along each block and corner for programming. What goes in each space will depend on public input, Corner said, but will fit with one of three major themes.”
Using Healthcare Landscape Architecture To Promote Healthier Lifestyles – Healthcare Design Magazine, 11/8/13
“For more than a decade, the efficacy of adding therapeutic outdoor spaces to healthcare campuses has continued to gain traction among systems. While well-designed landscape elements—such as inviting building entries, healing gardens, walking trails, and vegetable gardens—can lead to better patient health, these elements can provide preventive health benefits, too.”
Palatine Playground Travels to Guatemala – The Chicago Tribune, 11/8/13
“Cheryl Tynczuk, the landscape architect for the Palatine Park District, said she’s glad the equipment is being used to create a playground for kids who otherwise would not have that play space.”
Southern California’s Great Park Gets a Colossal Cut – Planetizen, 11/12/13
“Landscape architect Ken Smith’s bold vision for a Central Park-like open space in Irvine has been hobbled by funding shortfalls. Seeking a way to move forward, the city is considering cutting key elements in favor of a developer-led proposal.”
Oysters Could Save New York From More Sandys: Commentary – Bloomberg, 11/12/13
“Orff, 41, is a landscape architect, heading her own New York City firm called SCAPE. Her practice includes the gardens and parks you would expect, but she has made a specialty of how urbanism and nature coexist.”
These articles were compiled by Phil Stamper, ASLA Public Relations and Communications Coordinator.
Image credit: Nicolett Mall / James Corner Field Operations