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Elizabeth & Nona Evans Restorative Garden, a Garden for Contemplation

I have recently found a great piece of literature about designing urban gardens for well-being. “Restorative commons: Creating health and well-being through urban landscapes” by Campbell, Lindsay; Wiesen, Anne published in 2009 under USDA – Forest Service.

Here is the link to the online resource – available free pdf version!

What specifically caught my attention there is the description of the case example of the Elizabeth & Nona Evans Restorative Garden in Cleveland, a winner of a design charrette. Part of this design is a Garden for Contemplation, inviting specifically the elderly and persons with disabilities

The space is easy to comprehend and inviting to first-time visitors who discover smaller
more private spaces within. This verdant, quiet garden is gracious and
welcoming. It is lush; its colors calm and serene. The design reflects
the proportion, scale, and fine detailing of the adjacent handsome
modern limestone library

It is beautifully designed with consideration of all aspects of a contemplative model. One interesting aspect is that it contains poems in Braille’s language

The height of the pool in relation to the adjacent path was carefully considered to allow visitors to see
reflections of trees and sky whether sitting or standing. Behind it a fountain flows from the top of the low wall into a basin.

I encourage everyone to have a look at this chapter, and others, that bring the best available knowledge about the landscape design for Health and Well-being!

[simple author]
URD

Where Government Listens to Scientists: Urban Sustainability R&D Congress, Singapore

Singapore is one of the most prominent examples of Urban Sustainability through new technologies, research and development. It is also one of few countries where government is actively supporting science and innovation in order to inform the practice of urban design and solve urban living issues. The Urban Sustainability R&D Congress is organized since 2011, biannually, and invites all R&D projects pursued by Government agencies, collaborating with local and international research institutions.

One of the key note speakers, Dr Elsa Arcaute from UCL, a researcher of Cities as Complex Systems, when asked by a panel moderator, Dr Cheong Koon Hean  (CEO of Housing & Development Board) what advice does she have for Singapore, she answered to just continue what Singapore was already doing. She mentioned that she as a researcher is used to “begging” urban decision makers to look at the results of her work. In Singapore authorities are not only interested to hear researchers out but also keen to fund the applicable research.

The Congress is a national platform for government agencies, research community and industries to come together to discuss R&D responses for urban solutions and sustainability. The exhibition is also a showcase of most interesting solutions ans research in progress. Everything is presented with typical to Singapore care to impress all the visitors.

Singapore has been striving to balance economic growth with a high quality of life and care for the environment. As a result it has to deal with many challenges, including  the growing burden of mental health disorders and  aging population. These challenges were recognized and addressed at the Congress through a “Greater Sustainability Track”,  which shared the benefits of adopting sustainable and biophilic design ideas, provide behavioural and technological insights to aid the creation of a high quality living environment. On this track  the preliminary study of Dr Agnieszka Olszewska-Guizzo, President of NeuroLandscape was presented, soon to air on our youtube channel!

Photos:

  1. Punggol Digital District https://www.jtc.gov.sg/industrial-land-and-space/Pages/punggol-digital-district.aspx
  2. & 3. A.O.G
watson hockerdesign

Maintenance of green in the city and health

Different initiatives undertaken by the urban authorities can contribute to the improvement of urban dweller’s contact with nature and the nature exposure

These include:

  1. Leaving unmowed areas in the urban green spaces, for developing a small ecosystems for flora & fauna, (urban meadows)
  2. Promoting the spontaneous habitat creation
  3. Leaving the fallen leaves on the ground for the winter (improves conditions of the soil)

These actions, (or rather withdrawing from action) not only improve the urban ecosystems functioning, but also can save some money in the local budget. Most importantly however from our point of view, they improve the sense of connectedness of people with urban nature, by making the changing seasons noticeable, and more pronounced, enabling the observation of the life phases of the plant and ultimately contemplation of the continuous life cycles.

These three postulate  were included in an open letter to the Major of Warsaw, Poland by the local community and proffessionals, and will contribute to the  Greenery Council (Zarzad Zieleni) activities, (see the campaign here ).  Because of the postulates are strongly aligned with the NeuroLandscape’s vision of the city, we support this action, and look forward to positive changes on city lawns!

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April – the World Landscape Architecture Month by ASLA

When I went to my first scientific conference, as a PhD candidate, I was surprised that the main topic of the post-conference discussion was about “what is the landscape architecture?”. For more than 1 hour landscape architects (teachers, academics, and proffessionals) were discussing vividly about what it is that what they do.

I found it funny then… but the more I studied and developed in the area the more I understood that the answer to that question is not so straight forward. To me landscape architecture was the only study discipline, which would join my technical, scientific, artistic and environmental interests. Later it turned out that it can be much more than a job. Today, with my NeuroLandscape NGO I know the landscape architecture can literally change people’s life.

Here’s a little tribute to that beautiful yet neglected discipline. Let’s celebrate the month of Landscape Architecture!

“Landscape Architecture is a profession that is unknown or misunderstood as gardening by many. Its value to society is greater than many can imagine and should be celebrated by the population of every town, city, and country….”

What is landscape architecture?

Dr. Agnieszka Olszewska-Guizzo is the President and Founder of NeuroLandscape. She is a Ph.D. in landscape architecture and urban ecology, who has explored the relationship between the different features of the natural and built environment’s influence on human health and wellbeing. In her research she has successfully incorporated neuroscience tools to investigate the changes in brainwave oscillation in participants exposed to different types of designed landscape. She has introduced and operationalized the term contemplative landscape and proposed a quantitative assessment scale to distinguish landscape views according to which are most beneficial for mental health in terms of passive exposure. She has developed several research projects worldwide and established international research networks across multiple universities. She is an originator of the idea for the VR_HEATHER project, which builds upon her research and is also in line with the statutory goals of NeuroLandscape.

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WHO to fund a systematic review about blue spaces and health

In our ongoing collaboration with the EKLIPSE mechanism, together with Expert Working Group from different European countries and representing various disciplines, we are trying to answer the question:

Which types and components of urban and peri-urban blue / green spaces have a significant impact on human mental health and mental well-being?

EKLIPSE is project funded by the European Union, under “SC5-2015 Climate Action, Environment, Resource Efficiency and Raw Materials” scheme. It’s goal is to answer the requested questions in the most comprehensive and scientifically sound form i.e. systematic review.  In the case of the above question the requester is the MInistry in Charge of Environment in France (MTES).

While working on the systematic review for green & blue spaces, the group was contacted by World Health Organization, who offered additional funding for separating the blue spaces into a separate systematic review. The offer was accepted and currently we are working on the soon to be released review of the types and characteristics of the blue spaces and their effect on mental health and well-being.

FInd out more in our projects!

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Follow the awakening in urban green spaces for health!

Our newest publication  XSection Journal features the process of evolution in perception of urban green spaces in terms of the health benefits they can deliver, through a popular “expanding brain meme.

Check out this short article and how to interpret the image here:

https://www.xsectionjournal.com/edition-8/2018/11/22/generations-of-urban-green-for-health-dr-agnieszka-olszewska-guizzo

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RIVER. A powerful landscape component restoring the human nervous system.

The more we know about the interactions between the landscape and human nervous system the better we can plan and design our living environments to serve our health.

With water being the essential component of any form of life, it is not surprising that it also influence our psychophysiological response, even if we are just passively exposed to it.  But what kind of water feature, and what do we have to do with this water to achieve this response? This is a question that scientists (NeuroLandscape included) have been trying to answer.

Let’s concentrate on the river. According to Jungian dream analysis, based on his theory of collective unconscious, the river is a symbol of death and rebirth (baptism), the flowing of time into eternity, transitional phases of the life cycle, and incarnations of deities. In Dr. Agnieszka Olszewska-Guizzo’s research river is one of the archetypal elements making the landscape “contemplative” and therefore therapeutical.

In the fMRI study from 2017 the team of Prof Chang, Chun-Yen (National Taiwan University) discovered that the passive exposure to the river views alters the brain functioning significantly, when compared to the urban views (see the image above).

The brain activity related to the “urban versus water ” contract was located in the left and right cuneus (Fig. 5).
The cuneus is primarily known for its involvement in basic visual processing. Furthermore, the right cingulate gyrus and left precuneus were also activated. These regions, which are part of Brodmann area 31 (BA31) and known as the dorsal
posterior cingulate cortex, are assumed to influence the focus of attention by adjusting whole-brain metastability (Leech & Sharp, 2014).   – Tang et.al 2017

It looks like there is nothing better for our nerves fatigues from all day in the office or and after several hours commuting through the urban jungle than walk along the riverfront immersing with our senses into the soothing flow of the waters.

 

 

Scientific references:

Olszewska, A. A., Marques, P. F., Ryan, R. L., & Barbosa, F. (2018). What makes a landscape contemplative?. Environment and Planning B: Urban Analytics and City Science45(1), 7-25.

Leech, R., & Sharp, D. J. (2014). The role of the posterior cingulate cortex in cognition and disease. Brain, 137(1), 12–32.

Tang, I. C., Tsai, Y. P., Lin, Y. J., Chen, J. H., Hsieh, C. H., Hung, S. H., … & Chang, C. Y. (2017). Using functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) to analyze brain region activity when viewing landscapes. Landscape and Urban Planning162, 137-144.

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Scenic vs urban landscapes

A lot of studies have been performed comparing the reaction to  urban vs scenic, or natural landscapes in the lab.  This is one of them and we decided to feature it because it is performed with the most advanced method of brain scanning that we know thus far , fMRI.

From the figure we can see with the naked eye a difference between the pattern of activity when exposed to scenic (A) and urban (B) pictures.

The paper did not provide the stimuli photographs, which would be very important to see… Are they contemplative landscapes? Are they possible to design and implement in our cities? …

Interestingly enough, this study acknowledges that the benefits from inducing this particular brain activity come from just passive observation of images, which are far from the real landscape immersion.

Certain benefits may be derived from exposure to virtual versions of the natural environment, too. For example, people who were shown pictures of scenic, natural environments had increased brain activity in the region associated with recalling happy memories, compared to people that were shown pictures of urban landscapes.

Source: Kim, G. W., Jeong, G. W., Kim, T. H., Baek, H. S., Oh, S. K., Kang, H. K., … & Song, J. K. (2010). Functional neuroanatomy associated with natural and urban scenic views in the human brain: 3.0 T functional MR imaging. Korean Journal of Radiology11(5), 507-513.

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NeuroURBANISM, NeuroARCHITECTURE, NeuroLANDSCAPE!

Many aspects of our lives are far more interlinked than we normally imagine. Breakthroughs in neuroscience have made these links even more sensible than ever.

Read more at the practical design and construction site Houzz, how nouroarchitecture can look like in practice.

Photo credits: #Houzz

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Neuro-urbanism & Neuro-landscape

A new term has officially been introduced in the scientific world – NEUROURBANISM.  It happened together with the  publication in Lancet in Psychiatry in March 2017 [link here].  City life has a lot to do with the psychiatric conditions , and this is the path we have been following in NeuroLandscape as well.

Our cities are growing and we know: City life influences our behavior, our emotions and our psychological well-being. The brain of an urban dweller reacts differently to social stress than that of a rural dweller. Whether this is also the reason for the aggregation of some stress sequelae in cities is a question that we want to answer with Neuro-Urbanism, a new discipline assembling neurologists, urban researchers and architects. 

-Dr Mazda Adli, Director of the Mood Disorders Research Group at the Charité Berlin and Head of the Fliedner Klinik Berlin

We are happy to get involved with the development of this new discipline in regard to urban nature, and the quality of urban environment. We are looking forward to join forces and connect with the interdisciplinary forum of Neurourbanism in Germany.