Visiting Nature’s Embrace: A Singapore Exhibition Showcasing the Healing Effects of Nature

Have you ever wondered why vacation destinations often feature a natural landscapes? And if you can find this type of natural paradise right here in Singapore?

With support from Singapore’s National Parks Board, the Mind Art Experiential Lab of the National University of Singapore’s Yeo Boon Khim Mind Science Centre has curated the “Nature’s Embrace: A Gift to the Mind” exhibition. The exhibition is open for appointment-based viewing until September 2024. It allows visitors to explore the connection between nature and mental well-being through serene visuals and calming nature melodies. Not to mention, it also provides techniques that can improve the mind-body-nature connection that you can try at home.

Nature’s gifts

Upon entering the exhibit, visitors are greeted by a panel mapping the effects of urban nature on health, ranging from physical well-being and social interactions to mental health. This isn’t an easy feat to illustrate, but the aesthetically pleasing, forest-themed visuals and bite-sized text do the job well.

The exhibit then introduces visitors to the concept of “mindfulness.” Here mindfulness is defined as the awareness that comes from paying attention to the present moment in a non-judgemental manner. By slowing down and becoming more aware of our thoughts and surroundings, we can acknowledge and process them, rather than leaving them to accumulate.

The next exhibition panel demonstrates how nature can facilitate mindfulness by offering restorative settings that engage our senses with soothing features. This provides a break from everyday stressors and allows us to recharge. Imagine the sounds of birds singing in the morning or water trickling down a small waterfall as you stroll amongst lush greenery. Add in a light breeze and subtle flowery scents. These elements bring our attention back to the present, moving us away from the worries of the day.

Panel introducing the features of nature that help facilitate mindfulness.

The exhibition features leading studies conducted by the center on the health benefits of nature on the citizens of Singapore. These include the effects of therapeutic gardening, such as a local 10-week therapeutic horticulture program, on the motor, cognitive, and psycho-social well-being of older adults.

But how do we translate these findings to improve the spaces around us? Dr. Agnieszka Olszewska-Guizzo’s study on urban green spaces does just that, identifying landscape features that improve mood and boost brain activity. These features, such as high perceived biodiversity and multiple landscape layers, elevate inner calmness, reduce distracting thoughts, and help the mind process information in a clear and neutral manner. This research led to the development of the Contemplative Landscape Model, which is now used to design parks in Singapore to enhance their restorative effects.

The seven Contemplative Landscape Model features that can be seen in nature.

Seeking Solace in the Forest

Picture this. Lush, multi-layered tropical vegetation surrounding a wall with a gentle stream of water flowing down. You can even hear the sound of water as it makes its way across the panel. The “Nature’s Embrace Water Feature” is an installation that engages all the senses of visitors, reflecting the tranquil effects of a forest.

Nearby is the Tropical Paludarium, showcasing a naturalistic representation of what we would typically imagine in a tropical forest river channel. The transparent glass reveals a vertical cross-section, from the canopy layers of vegetation above to the extensive roots reaching into the fine sand and rocks below. This cross-section allows visitors to appreciate the biodiversity and elements that create a healthy ecosystem.

A panel behind the Tropical Paludarium explains the practice of forest bathing, Shinrin-yoku. Originating from Japan, Shinrin-yoku offers physical and mental health benefits when done mindfully, even in Singapore’s highly urbanized landscape. The study conducted by the center found that regular guided forest bathing walks can reduce backaches, lower blood pressure and anxiety, as improve sleep, empathy, and positivity.

Shiinrin-yoku’s health benefits study on Singapore’s population.

The landscape then makes a drastic shift to a mostly white and open installation. The Dry Garden replicates the Japanese stone gardens, Karesansui. With its distinct five-stone arrangement, it evokes the ripple effect of water. The open spaces and white-grey colors create a sense of peaceful silence, demonstrating how different natural landscapes can positively affect us.

Bringing Nature and its Gifts to our Living Spaces

In the middle of the exhibition space, visitors are introduced to nature-based activities that enhance mindfulness. Besides gardening, therapeutic horticulture activities can be done indoors, such as creating terrariums and moss art. By immersing in micro-landscaping, visitors can engage their focus and usually hidden creativity, evoking a sense of exploration and, eventually, a sense of achievement.

Moss art created by the exhibition’s visitors framed for the public.

For a less nature-based activity, mandala creation and meditation combine the effects of the open, circular formation seen in Japanese stone gardens with the self-expression and engagement of horticulture activities, promoting contemplation, creativity, and relaxation. The exhibition also offers paid terrarium and forest bathing workshops for those interested.

Beautiful mandala art pieces produced by some of the exhibition’s visitors.

Through this short immersive experience, visitors learn different ways to improve their well-being using the healing features of nature. More importantly, it reminds us that these urban green spaces are worth protecting and rehabilitating for both the Earth’s and our well-being.

Anna Artemeva

Therapeutic Landscapes, Hospice Care, and Fight Club: An Interview with Landscape Architect Anna Artemeva

“The important thing to understand is that a hospice is not a place where people die, but rather a place where they live – their final stage of life.”

Palliative care is a specialized form of healthcare that focuses on quality-of-life care for those with chronic, life-limiting conditions. This care most often includes counseling sessions, symptom management, movement practices, creative therapies such as music or art, as well as spiritual or emotional guidance. The facilities are designed to act as “healing spaces,” blending aesthetics with practical aspects of comfort and safety for patients, staff, and visitors.

From the micro details of color palettes and the homeliness of kitchens to the angle, size, and position of windows allowing natural light and views of the outdoors, every indoor element of these places is thoughtfully considered. However, while there is extensive literature on the restorative effects of nature on patients, less attention has been given to the quality of the natural landscape as a critical factor in the therapeutic equation.

In the following interview, we explore the importance of landscape architecture in creating therapeutic (contemplative) spaces within hospices. Our guest, Anna Artemeva, is a Master of Landscape Architecture (MLA) from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU), specializing in sustainable urbanization. Originally from Russia, Anna now finds inspiration in the blend of the natural and the urban in her new home of Stockholm, Sweden.

We discuss her journey to researching therapeutic landscapes, especially her recently published Master’s thesis titled: “Testing a Contemplative Landscape Model to Design a Stress-Reducing Therapeutic Landscape for the Mellanorrlands Hospice.” What is especially interesting is the focus of her research: the application of the Contemplative Landscape Model (CLM) developed by Agnieszka Olszewska-Guizzo (founder of NeuroLandscape and author of Neuroscience for Designing Green Spaces Contemplative Landscapes) in a setting that had not previously been studied under this model, a hospice.

AB: To get started, could you share a brief introduction about yourself and your first steps into the world of landscape architecture, particularly with a focus on therapeutic landscapes?

AA: My name is Anna Artemeva. I’m originally from Russia, but I’ve now lived in Stockholm for about 7 years. In Russia, I studied interior design and landscape architecture. However, I primarily worked as an interior designer on public and private projects. When I moved to Sweden, I decided to shift my career focus towards landscape architecture. I was fascinated by how landscape architects create such beautiful environments here. I pursued a Master’s program in Landscape Architecture for Sustainable Urbanization at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences.

AB: Can you describe a specific experience in nature that sparked your interest in landscape architecture?

AA: My life in Russia gave me two different experiences that I believe really shaped my interest in landscape architecture. I grew up in Chelyabinsk. So, I was surrounded by the stunning natural beauty of the Ural Mountains and the crystal-clear, incredibly beautiful lakes. However, at the same time, Chelyabinsk itself is a city with severe environmental issues, especially air pollution. It’s a big city with poor urban infrastructure.

So, there is this contrast between the natural and the urban environment. The experience of growing up with both of these worlds really pushed me to want to learn more about cities and how to build nice environment. I could feel how it affects you if you live in such a harsh city environment.

I think what initially drew me to using design to improve people’s well-being especially through nature is my experience living in Sweden and Stockholm. Stockholm is such a good example of this – a city where there’s a union between nature and the city. So, I’m really interested in understanding these processes. How it can happen, how it affects people, and how we can create these types of environments.

AB: Your thesis focused on the application of the Contemplative Landscape Model (CLM) developed by our founder, Agnieszka Olszewska-Guizzo, at Mellanorrlands Hospice. Why were you inspired to explore the use of landscapes for therapy in hospice care?

AA: I was drawn to hospice care because it offered a unique context and specific needs. Here, creating therapeutic landscapes wasn’t simply desirable, but of necessity. It’s not about creating fancy landscapes. They need landscapes that genuinely support their patients.

I felt connected to the philosophy of hospice care. Especially the fact that they are built to allow their guests live their life as fully as possible. I wanted to support this and this is where therapeutic landscapes came in.

AB: What initially drew you to study Mellanorrlands Hospice as a subject for exploring CLM?

AA: What initially drew me to Mellanorrlands Hospice and not another hospice as a subject for exploring CLM? It’s quite simple. It was the only hospice I could establish a connection with. I conducted a lot of research into the hospices here in Sweden. There are great examples in southern Sweden, but they were too far away.

Mellanorrlands Hospice was not only geographically accessible, but they were very willing to cooperate and give me the opportunity to work with a specific spot on their premises. I’m incredibly grateful for their willingness to participate. There was a moment when I thought, “Oh my God, I will probably write my thesis without a subject.” So, I’m really very thankful that they answered and were so open and kind.

AB: Could you tell me a little more about Mellanorrlands Hospice itself? How would you describe its environment (rural, urban, etc.)? Does the surrounding landscape play a role in the overall therapeutic experience, and if so, how?  Who are the typical patients that receive care at the hospice? Can you profile them?

AA: Mellanorrlands hospice is located in Sundsvall, a Swedish town north of Stockholm. The hospice itself is located on the shore of Lake Sidsjön on the border between the city and a nature reserve. It is positioned in the urban area, next to a residential area with a school, a hospital, a sports club, and hotel. However, the hospice and nursing home are deliberately set apart, separated by a road and a forest. This separation helps to orient it towards the beautiful, hilly landscape of the nature reserve, offering stunning views down to the lake.

The surrounding landscape plays a large part in the therapeutic experience of patients. The hospice is designed so that all patient rooms face the natural landscape. These rooms not only offer beautiful views, but each has its own access to a common terrace with an open view of the valley.  On the hospice website there is a testimonial from one of the patient’s daughter. She notes how her father cherished the view from the window, watching the ice melt and spring arrive from his bed. He watched these views daily in the last spring of his life.

“Dad’s room was fantastic, as I realized over time,” she writes. “It had a wonderful view of the lakeside. From his bed, he could watch the ice send off and spring come in for the last time.”

The important thing to understand is that a hospice is not a place where people die, but rather a place where they live out their final stage of life. The most frequent diagnosis of hospice patients at Sundsvall is cancer. In 2021, only 8% of patients were diagnosed with non-cancer. The average age of patients is 73. In 2021, the youngest patient was 41 and the oldest was 92. What we learn is, hospice patients are very diverse in age and spend anywhere from a few weeks, to months, to a whole year in care. The condition and mobility of the patients can also vary quite a lot. They can be quite independent, as well as those who need specialized cage and struggle to move without using a wheelchair or there are those who lie on a bed the whole day.

Despite the varied backgrounds and conditions, what these individuals share in common is that, with the proper medical care and anesthesia, they can and want to live their lives to the fullest.

AB: Can you walk me through the process of using the Contemplative Landscape Model (CLM) to design a space for hospice patients? Maybe use an example from Mellanorrlands Hospice?

AA: Let’s do it. The first step using CLM is to understand the view which specific view to focus on. In my case at Mellanorrlands Hospice, it was very easy to find this spot because there was a central area that was most usable for both patients and staff. This is where they often relax, chat, and just spend time with loved ones. So, it was definitely this point where I could work with the landscape and a very specific view.

The next step was to evaluate the existing view using the Contemplative Landscape Model guide. It’s a step-by-step guide where you answer the questions and receive a score for each element. In my case, the landscape scored well in some elements like typical and archetypal elements, a good visible and recognizable character, peace and silence, and a natural and harmonious color palette.

However, some important elements like layers of landscape, biodiversity, and land forms weren’t well represented in the landscape. This resulted in an overall average contemplative score. This meant this particular landscape couldn’t provide a good stress reduction atmosphere.

So, the last step was to develop a design proposal that addressed these weak elements and increased the overall contemplation score. Here, it was important to think about specific design solutions that were necessary for the group of users. For instance, many patients in the hospice use wheelchairs or have limited mobility. That was why my design proposal focused on creating the landscape by using trees instead of other plants. Plants placed on a lower level wouldn’t be very accessible for these people. This highlighted another interesting aspect of the CLM framework.

AB: What surprised you the most about the challenges of designing a therapeutic landscape?

AA: You know, the biggest surprise came during a discussion about my thesis. I wanted to find an approach with a strong scientific basis, ideally something that has a medicine base. My goal was to really prove that this approach could lead to design a stress-reducing environment.

Some landscape architecture professors were very skeptical that it’s possible at all to scientifically prove that an environment can be stress reducing. This led me to believe that many professors may not be very familiar with neurobiology and cognitive science. It seemed to be they were unaware that today’s research can now design experiments that clearly demonstrate how this landscape can have an effect on stress reduction.

So, this skepticism was the most surprising moment for me. Before I found the Contemplative Landscape Model, there were very few articles and papers that provided enough that can be used in cases where you need to create a very specific environment for stress reduction.

AB: In your thesis, you proposed further research to refine CLM for wider applications. Can you elaborate on some specific areas you’d like to see explored to strengthen the model?

AA: Absolutely. I’d be very interested in knowing more about the dynamics that happen in the process. So in the research papers, the practitioners creates experiments where they used a mechanism that let them see this process played out in the brain. But what I’m trying to say is that a person just comes and observes a landscape, and we don’t know what’s going on.

What if someone observes this landscape not just that day, but for weeks, months and years? Because our brains can adapt pretty well to all environments, and I believe there could be some changes that happen if a person observes a landscape over longer periods of time. So I’d like to see how that looks.

Another thing that’s very important for me as a landscape architect is to investigate if the framework that exists right now with this guide system is good enough for landscape architects to implement this method. I found that there’s a very subjective process that happens when you answer the questions.

What if I someone with a different background than myself, maybe someone who lives here and has fallen in love with this landscape, how would they answer the questions? And I observed that some questions I could have answered differently. So, it would be great to see this instrument in a more objective framework.

AB: Building on your research, what advice can you offer to landscape architects who want to design therapeutic spaces in other healthcare settings or even public areas?

AA: That’s quite a tricky question. Build on my experience, I’d say that I need more context. For instance, the specific location and the user group. But I can definitely recommend looking into the Contemplative Landscape Model. It has a really good set of questions and detailed descriptions for each element that can influence a landscape’s impact. This framework can inspire landscape architects and encourage them to develop their own questions specific to the project. They can then create better therapeutic environments, I believe.

AB: Your research highlights the connection between nature and well-being in hospice care. Can you translate this concept into actionable steps for our audience who might be interested in creating a more therapeutic outdoor space in their own homes or gardens?

AA: I’m not sure if my my experience can be directly applied in this way. Especially when we’re talking about private gardens, because one of the important elements in a stress-reducing landscape is biodiversity, and biodiversity is often combined with natural colors. But in private gardens, I believe people often prefer a more colorful environment.

So again, maybe it’s a good idea to read Neuroscientists for Design in Green Space and learn from the experiences there, and make your own experiment. Understand what kind of therapeutic garden you’d like to create, and just just to do it! Experiment! With this approach, remember that a landscape is always a process. It’s not just about the results. So, enjoy the process!

AB: During your research, how did your personal views or feelings about nature and healing evolve?

AA: I have always enjoyed being outside. I spend a lot of my free time closer to nature. Now, I realize even more that being in nature can be a tool for stress management. If I am in a stressful situation, I look for open spaces with inspiring views. I understand now how important it is to spend even more time in a calming landscape.

AB: Can you share a story about how your interactions with patients or staff at Mellanorrlands Hospice influenced your approach to the project?

AA: Absolutely. One specific interaction with a patient really stands out in my mind. During a visit, the hospice staff asked me to talk with a woman because she and her husband spoke primarily Russian and little Swedish. We had a great conversation about a lot of different things. The woman had difficulty holding her head up because she had recently had surgery. So, she was mostly resting her head on the headrest.

As we talked, I asked her where in the landscape her gaze fell most naturally. Surprisingly, she pointed to a completely different spot than the one I had identified initially. This small change in the angle of the head position really affected her relationship with the landscape and her perspective. This experience pushed me to think deeper about other unique needs and limitations people face in this period of their life.

AB: Can you elaborate on the specific “gazing point” the woman identified?

AA: In general, I was talking about the difference between a healthy person’s perception of the landscape and a person with physical limitations. In the initial design process, I analyzed the therapeutic garden through the lens of a healthy person. That is, I looked at elements for contemplating and reflecting that naturally attracted my attention, what was missing, how my gaze wandered through the landscape, where it stopped.

However, when talking to this patient who had difficulty keeping her head upright and so spent most of her time resting her head on the headrest with her head slightly tilted, I realized that her process of contemplation – how her gaze wandered across the landscape and where it lingered and stopped – was different from mine.

I haven’t had the opportunity to further fully research and develop this specific question in more detail. It was an important moment of realization. In my work, I’ve always kept in mind that the landscape should interact both with people with no mobility limitations and with people with mobility limitations. I also tried to take into account factors such as a patient’s depressive state and their experiencing an existential crisis.

From this point of view, it was encouraging to see how a contemplative landscape showed positive effects on people with depression. But internally, the question remained: what other physical changes, brought on by illness, could have a significant impact on the perception of the landscape that I hadn’t taken into account.

AB: What were some of your most significant personal challenges during this research, and how did you overcome them?

Personally, it was very challenging to write my thesis. It was my first major research paper, and I struggled to find enough people to have discussions related to my topic. Unfortunately, I didn’t find many opportunities to discuss my topic. But I use all the opportunities I get to discuss my topic with anyone open to it.

AB: I am curious to hear about the reception of your research topic and final design. How did the patients, staff members, and even your teachers and fellow students react to your work on therapeutic landscapes at Mellanorrlands Hospice?

AA: There was a lot of interest amongst fellow students in the method itself. For most of them, it was entirely new, and they wanted to learn more about its use and the evidence supporting it.

The topic of the hospice center was also interesting to the teachers. Because the topic is not common, people don’t often get to work with it in depth. They hear about it, discuss it, and can really immerse themselves in the topic. It seems to me there is a common misconception: “Hospice is a place where people die”, which gives rise to certain associations.

Just a year ago, there was a situation where people opposed building a hospice in their neighborhood. I think if people realized that a hospice is a place where people live, they might be less likely to protest.

So, we had a lot of discussions with the teachers about the philosophy and specifics of palliative care, and the unique relationship between hospices and landscape design.

AB: Being at the beginning of your journey into landscape architecture, what reflections can you share about how you see the future of landscape architecture evolving, particularly in the context of therapeutic and contemplative spaces?

AA: I would definitely like to see more collaboration between landscape architecture and other fields, especially neurobiology and cognitive science. And I believe that landscape architecture can gain a lot of useful tools from these collaborations, and maybe rethink existing tools and approaches in a more efficient way.

AB: What advice would you give to communities or institutions looking to integrate therapeutic landscapes into their environments?

AA: First of all, it’s definitely important to do research and understand the needs. This means conducting thorough research to understand the specific needs and preferences of the community or institution. Consider factors such as the cultural backgrounds and even the health issues of the community.

Find the right experts to collaborate with is also very important. Landscape architects, environmental psychologists, or even other relevant experts in this field can really help build a built environment in a more efficient way.

AB: What are your next steps or future projects in this field? Are there particular aspects or techniques you wish to explore further?

AA: For me, right now, it’s very important to use my theoretical knowledge in a practical way. I’m looking forward and very excited to gain practical experience in the field.

AB: If you could create a therapeutic landscape in any location in the world, where would it be and what unique features would it have?

AA: I took this question very seriously actually. I just want to see a therapeutic landscape everywhere where it’s really needed.

AB: Which fictional character do you think would most benefit from spending time in a therapeutic landscape? Why?

AA: I shared this question with my sister and I really liked her answer. She said to change the final scene in the movie, Fight Club, where the main characters are standing and holding hands with exploding buildings in the background. So, we suggest to change this background to a therapeutic landscape. Really, I feel that it this is what we, across the world, are really seeking right now and it’s changing this whole story in such a positive way. This is our suggestion that would completely rewrite Fight Club.

AB: If you had to describe your ideal therapeutic garden using only three words, what would they be?

AA: Appropriate, attractive and therapeutic. Because if a random person came to this landscape I created and said, Oh my God, it’s so therapeutic,” then I know I’ve achieved my goal.

Continue reading “Therapeutic Landscapes, Hospice Care, and Fight Club: An Interview with Landscape Architect Anna Artemeva”
Team Photo 2

GreenInCities Kick-Off Meeting: NeuroLandscape in Barcelona

  • Day 1: Introduction to GreenInCities and Nature-based Solutions

NeuroLandscape was proud to participate in the Kick-Off meeting of the project Demonstrating Holistic Data-driven Co-Creative Approaches in Nature-based solutions towards Climate Adaptation and Mitigation (GreenInCities) (Project ID: 101139730) in Barcelona, Spain. This groundbreaking EU-funded project GreenInCities, brings together experts to revitalize disadvantaged neighborhoods and fight climate change. Their weapon of choice? Nature-based solutions (NbS) for urban regeneration (European Commission, 2023).

Day 1: El Besòs Takes Center Stage (GreenInCities Pilot Area)

El Besòs, a Barcelona district, was chosen as a GreenInCities’ pilot cities. The morning began with a warm welcome by the local leaders, including Mayor Filo Cañete. With much enthusiasm, they discussed their shared objective of achieving climate neutrality by 2030, echoing the ambitious goal set by the Barcelona City Council.

GreenInCities’ core values connected deeply with their mission, particularly:

  • Inclusive Development: Bringing disadvantaged communities into the fold as active participants in shaping their green future.
  • Environmental Stewardship: Recognizing the inherent value of ecosystems and actively promoting the value of biodiversity in cities, through its contribution to human health.
  • Tech-Powered Transformation: Leveraging cutting-edge approaches like neurourbanism and mental health digital twins to guide urban renewal.

In the afternoon, we explored El Besòs further. We toured Parc del Fòrum and the charming La Catalana neighborhood alongside Francesc Romero Siles of Consorci del Besòs, who was our guide. He pointed areas of interest targeted for regeneration, such as the beach and the natural landscape. Later,  LAND hosted a workshop that used an animal-centric approach to connect participants with local flora and fauna. In this way, we explored the importance of shared responsibility for the local ecosystem’s well-being. The day ended with a visit to the inspiring Nau de Turbines, a former power plant undergoing transformation into a vibrant cultural hub.

Day 2: Fostering Collaboration and Innovation at Valldaura Labs

Valldaura Labs, nestled amidst the beautiful green landscape of Barcelona’s Collserola Natural Park, provided a peaceful setting for Day Two. The day was filled with interactive workshops and engaging discussions among our GreenInCities team. We shared our knowledge and found new ways of working together. One workshop, led by Linköping University and Universidade do Porto, had us explore potential connection between representatives from “leader” and “follower” pilot cities. Another session focused on exploring the perspectives of diverse stakeholders in making impactful decisions that affects both citizens and the environment. The highlight of the day was a visit to the #FabLab, a treasure of innovative sustainable urban design solutions. The award-winning TOVA greenhouse stood out as a testament to the power of sustainable design principles.

Day 3: Building Partnerships and Charting the Course Forward

The final day’s activities were held at the Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia (IAAC) Atelier in Poblenou. During the City Twinning Workshop, the consortium made the final decisions on the pairing of the “follower” cities with their “front-runner” counterparts. These included:

  • Birštonas will twin with Nova Gorica and Barcelona
  • Matosinhos will twin with Prato and Nova Gorica
  • Cork will twin with Helsinki and Athens
  • Pécs will twin with Helsinki and Barcelona
  • Reykjavik will twin with Nova Gorica, Prato and Athens

NeuroLandscape: Measuring the Impact of Green Cities

While GreenInCities prioritizes aesthetics and environmental benefits, it is crucial not to forget the impact of green environments on human well-being. This is where NeuroLandscape comes in. On Day 3, we presented Muse2, a portable neuroimaging device. This EEG technology allows us to assess, in real time, the impact of environmental changes on user well-being.

GreenInCities has officially begun its journey. NeuroLandscape is excited to be part of the team to measure the positive impact of Nature-based solutions on European citizens.

Stay tuned for updates on more GreenInCities news!

GreenInCities 1

GreenInCities project: Reshaping Urban Well-Being through Nature-Based Solutions 

The GreenInCities project tackles the challenge of bringing nature-based solutions to deprived urban areas to improve mental well-being. Learn how NeuroLandscape is contributing with innovative assessment methods.

As urban areas expand and crowding surges, accessing green spaces has become increasingly challenging. The issue goes beyond aesthetics; studies consistently link access to nature with improved mental and physical well-being. However, existing efforts to regreen these urban spaces often prioritize affluent, tourist-heavy areas, leaving behind disadvantaged neighborhoods across Europe (European Commission, 2023).

Introducing: The GreenInCities project

The GreenInCities project, funded by Horizon Europe, aims to address this gap. Launched in January 2024, GreenInCities brings together a consortium of experts to redefine urban regeneration strategies for deprived areas. The four-year project focuses on developing, implementing, and monitoring Nature-based Solutions (NbS), effectively bridging urban planning with ecological sustainability. 

GreenInCities adopts a comprehensive approach to urban regeneration, prioritizing the mental health needs of the cities and residents involved. The project leverages innovative tools and methodologies, including, but not limited to:

  • Augmented Reality (AR): This technology enables the pre-visualization of landscape changes, facilitating community engagement and informed decision-making.
  • Mobile Electroencephalography (mEEG): mEEG assesses the impact of NbS interventions on the mental health of local communities.
  • Artificial Intelligence (AI): AI plays a crucial role in optimizing planning and analysis, tailoring NbS efforts to the specific needs of each city.

These cutting-edge techniques ensure that regreening efforts seamlessly integrate into urban environments while remaining adaptable to meet the unique needs of each city and its residents.


GreenInCities: Objectives and Outcomes 

The GreenInCities project boasts a variety of specific objectives, all designed to amplify the impact of NbS for all stakeholders, from policymakers to citizens. Through collaborative efforts and a multidisciplinary approach, the project endeavors to achieve the following: 

  • Establish an Online Repository: This repository contains existing NbS implementations to serve as a valuable reference point for project activities.
  • Develop a Sustainable Renaturing Toolbox: This toolbox will comprise assessment methodologies and decision-making processes aligned with the goals and key indicators of local stakeholders, such as regional urban planning strategies.
  • Create Renaturing Guidelines: These guidelines, based on an evaluation matrix, will guide the implementation and maintenance of NbS across diverse sites.
  • Design Collaboratively a Data Infrastructure and Management System: This system will manage the data collected from greening initiatives across partner cities.
  • Co-Develop and Validate Predictive Tools: These tools, using the data collected by multimodal sensors, will facilitate pre- and post-intervention assessments to measure the effectiveness of NbS interventions.
  • Utilize Advanced Immersive Technologies: The project will leverage Augmented Reality to visualize changes in pilot areas before and after interventions, enabling proactive insights and adaptive planning for maximizing the positive impacts of NbS efforts.

NeuroLandscape’s Contribution to GreenInCities 

NeuroLandscape (NL) is proud to be part of this groundbreaking project. Our involvement demonstrates our commitment to advancing regreening efforts through a “human-in-the-loop” approach. We aim to ensure these initiatives benefit the entire ecosystem, from those initiating regreening efforts to the end users – the citizens who witness these positive transformations in their daily lives. 

Within the project’s scope, NL will develop a methodology for assessing citizens’ mental health before (pre) and after (post) regreening interventions. This methodology will leverage advanced neuroscience tools such as mobile Electroencephalography (mEEG). Once developed, the methodology will be disseminated within the consortium and implemented through field studies in at least three pilot European cities where regreening initiatives will take place. 

Building upon these assessments, NL will create a “mental health digital twin.” This innovative concept involves the development of automated pre/post measurements for regreening interventions using machine learning methods. This eliminates the need for direct measurements on human subjects while harnessing the predictive capabilities of AI to forecast the impact of NbS interventions on mental well-being.

Our involvement in GreenInCities represents a significant step forward for our organization, solidifying our commitment to advancing urban regreening initiatives through innovative approaches. We are dedicated to making a positive impact on the broader community by promoting mental health and environmental well-being in urban areas.

Want to learn more about how GreenInCities is transforming urban landscapes and improving lives?

Visit the project website or follow us on social media (Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn) for updates!


Keywords: Urban greening, nature-based solutions (NBS), mental health, well-being, deprived urban areas, equitable regeneration, Horizon Europe project, mobile EEG, machine learning, digital twin, citizen engagement, sustainable cities.

(GreenInCities Project (2024). Project Ref# HORIZON-MISS-2023-CLIMA-CITIES-01 grant agreement No 101139730. https://cordis.europa.eu/project/id/101139730)


CLM workshop in Singapore

19-20 February 2024, in Singapore took place first hand-on workshop on the practical application of the Contemplative Landscape Model, led by Dr Agnieszka Olszewska-Guizzo and organized by National Parks Board.

“From Theory to Practice with Contemplative Landscape Model” workshop included lectures, interactive landscape walks, expert evaluation exercises as well as the hands-on CLM design exercise.

CLM expert evaluation, with the participants of the workshop
Workshop participants rating landscape setting.

Participants of the workshop were landscape architects, architects and professionals involved with green space planning in Singapore. They represented the National Parks Board (NParks), Housing & Development Board (HDB), JTC Corporation and Changi Airport Group. They all expressed genuine interest in learning more about how to apply the CLM in their work.

9:00Introducing Contemplative Landscape Model:
· Scientific background and objectives
· Main findings from neuroscience research
7 key-components of CLM:           
1. Landscape Layers + Quiz
10:30  Coffee break
10:402. Landform + Quiz
3. Biodiversity + Quiz
4. Color & Light + Quiz
5. Compatibility + Quiz
6. Character of Peace and Silence + Quiz
12:00   Lunch break
13:00Continuation 7 key-components of CLM:         
7. Archetypal Elements + Quiz  
14:00Salutogenic values of the parks and gardens & mechanisms of health delivery:
·Physical Activity for Health
· Social Benefits of Green Spaces
· Connection with nature, active and passive
· How to unlock the highest potential?
14:50Coffee Break
15:00Attention Restoration Theory (ART), Stress reduction Theory and Biophilia Hypothesis
·Identifying landscape features for health delivery in space (landscape walk)
16:00Deepening your visual perception (landscape walk)   
·Landscapes from phenomenological and user-centric perspectives
·Expert vs. layman eye conundrum
·Visual quality analysis and effective scenic resource management
·Spatial considerations and exposure for optimal visual engagement
9:00 Precision and objectivity in CLM landscape scoring
· Digital representation (photo, videos) group scoring exercise with case studies)
· Navigating spatial variety: CLM applicability to different green, blue and gray-space typologies
10:30  Coffee break
10:40CLM scoring considerations (interpretation & examples)
CLM scoring and design in real-life scenes (interactive landscape walk)
12:00  Lunch break
13:00Collaborative Creation of CLM-Inspired Spaces
Design a CLM space – 3 sites
Presentation of design solutions (15 min/team)
15:30Coffee break
Cross-evaluation with CLM by another team
Summary of work
Final quiz

One of NeuroLandscape’s missions is to actively inform more professionals on how to utilise the CLM tool to assess and design mentally healthy green spaces.

A great resource to use for those who cannot attend the next workshop is a book “Neuroscience for Designing Green Spaces: Contemplative Landscapes” available here.

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Nature, mental health, and equity. Highlights from the kick-off meeting of the GreenME project

The GreenME project will study how exposure to nature can be integrated in healthcare systems to treat and improve mental health for all.

It officially launched its ambitious initiative at the Kick-off meeting held in Barcelona from January 29th to 31st, 2024. Hosted by the Open University of Catalunya (UOC) and
coordinated by the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB), the event brought together over 60 consortium members, including the esteemed Advisory Board members, the European Commission’s
project officer Patrizia Tenerelli, and researchers from sister projects (RESONATE and NATURELAB).

During this three-day event, participants had the opportunity to get to know each other and the passion that drives them, while visualising the unique contributions they will make to the project over the next
four years.

Researchers, therapy providers, and municipalities representatives worked together to address the challenges of the project via an insightful collective hands-on exercise, listing burning questions and
providing answers leading to a half-day exchange to identify ways forward. In between sessions, the participants recharged their minds and bodies with walks in nearby parks, mindfulness exercises, and a mandala-making outdoor activity, concretely experiencing how nature benefits mental health. Fun activities engaged the lively consortium; participants were asked to find clever solutions to build Kapla structures using just one finger or to tell their stories through a photographic language exercise!

This Kick-off meeting saw the robust collaboration and exchange of ideas with sister projects RESONATE and NatureLAB, operating under the overarching theme of mental health, nature, and sustainability. The anticipated collaboration is poised to drive forward pioneering research and foster transformative outcomes within the realm of nature-health interactions. Moreover, the Research Synergies workshop held during the Kick-off meeting facilitated dynamic exchanges with researchers from other scientific projects, including BlueHealth, GoGreenRoutes, Dr. FOREST, and PHENOTYPE. By fostering interdisciplinary collaboration, GreenME aims to accelerate progress towards building just resilient and sustainable healthy communities.

A core tenet of the GreenME initiative is the empowerment of green care actors and stakeholders. Recognizing the pivotal role of community involvement in shaping sustainable healthcare solutions, GreenME is committed to actively engaging with and empowering stakeholders throughout the project lifecycle. By fostering partnerships and amplifying the voices of green care advocates, GreenME seeks to cultivate a more inclusive and impactful approach to mental health and well-being. As GreenME embarks on this transformative journey, the consortium is poised to drive forward cutting-edge research, innovation, and collaboration to advance the understanding and integration of nature-based interventions in mental healthcare.

The GreenME Consortium:

In a trans-disciplinary partnership, GreenME involves six European countries, together with the UK
and theUS. GreenME is led by the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB – Barcelona, Spain) and
the GreenME consortium is composed of:

  1. University of Bologna (Bologna, Italy),
  2. Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (Sveriges Lantbruksuniversitet - Uppsala, Sweden),
  3. ILS Research (Research Institute for Regional and Urban Development - Dortmund, Germany),
  4. Warsaw University of Life Sciences (SGGW – Warsaw, Poland),
  5. Open University of Barcelona (UOC – Barcelona, Spain),
  6. Old-Continent (Brussels, Belgium),
  7. NeuroLandscape Foundation (Warsaw, Poland),
  8. Gesellschaft für Gartenbau und Therapie (GGuT – Hückeswagen, Germany),
  9. Institute of Psychiatry and Neurology (IPIN – Warsaw, Poland),
  10. Scandinavian Nature and Forest Therapy Institute & SHINRIN-YOKU (Stockholm, Sweden),
  11. Eta Beta Cooperativa Sociale (Bologna, Italy),
  12. City of Herne (Herne,Germany),
  13. Spanish Association of Horticulture and Social and TherapeuticGardening (AEHJST – Madrid, Spain),
  14. University of Kent (Kent, UK),
  15. University of Salford (Salford, UK),
  16. Social Farms and Gardens (Bristol, UK) and
  17. Mind in Bexley and East Kent LTD (London, UK),
  18. The US partner is Oregon Health & Science University Portland State University School of Public Health (OHSU-PSU — Portland, Oregon).

The project will last 4 years and is funded by the Horizon Europe research and innovation programme of the European Union.

For more information about GreenME and its initiatives, please visit https://greenme-project.eu

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CLM field session in Singapore – How to recognize Contemplative Landscape features in the park

On 6.10.2023 upon the National Parks Board (NParks Singapore) request, Dr Agnieszka Olszewska-Guizzo conducted the onsite consultation and training for the NParks designers and officers regarding the use of the Contemplative Landscape Model (CLM). NParks is currently rolling out the CLM in their parks and actively using this evidence-based tool [read more here].

We’re hoping to mainstream this research and apply it to a lot more sites outside of our parks and gardens… So far, we’re still in the early stage of hand-holding, but we hope it becomes adopted and grows in the wider industry”, says Jason Wright, Director of Design at NParks.

During the session Dr Guizzo shared the practical considerations of the use of the tool in the evaluation of the newly implemented"Wellness Garden"  - a part of East Coast Park in Singapore.  Additionally, she has answered the doubts and addressed the considerations of NParks landscape architects team about the active use of the CLM.

This was a very fruitful exchange session where all issues could be discussed in confrontation with the actual site!


Urban Solutions and Sustainability R&D Congress 2023, Singapore

Date: 4 - 5 October (Wed & Thu), 2023

Venue: Sands Expo and Convention Centre


The Congress was divided into several breakout sessions, out of which this specific one dedicated to mental health and well-being promotion through contact with urban nature. Below are the descriptions of speakers and talks. Among them our own Dr Agnieszka Olszewska-Guizzo. More details can be found at the Congress website.

Liveability: Nature and Well-being

This session brought together various speakers from the public sector and research spheres, to highlight leading areas of research and application in advancing nature-based solutions for health and well-being, as part of Singapore’s overall transformative efforts under its “City in Nature” vision.

Prof Tan Puay Yok
Chief Science & Technology Officer and Director, Singapore Botanic Gardens
National Parks Board (NParks)
Professor, College of Design and Engineering
National University of Singapore (NUS)

Topic: The Salubrity of Urban Nature: From Patterns to Mechanisms

There is probably a universal acceptance that nature in cities provides numerous benefits for urban dwellers. Among these, the health benefits from urban nature is a recurring and long-standing theme across different disciplines, from landscape architecture to urban planning, to human geography and public health planning. This is reflected in the increasing number of scholarly articles on this topic published over the last two decades. Such a recognition of the salubrious benefits of nature that cuts across cultures, however, can be said to be a rediscovery of old knowledge. For instance, more than two thousand years ago, Hippocrates said “Nature itself is the best physician”.

In Chinese culture, the idea of “天人合一” promotes the practice of harmony between human and nature as a way of living and an ethical treatment of the environment. Therefore, given the long cultural associations and increasing scientific evidence, what else needs to be done to increase the health benefits of nature exposure? One such area is to undertake studies that go beyond documenting benefits of nature exposure, to understanding the mechanisms leading to health benefits. Understanding mechanisms, in turn, provide the necessary evidence to design optimal interventions that address constraints of space, time and lifestyles of urban living. This presentation shares perspectives on the need to invest more efforts to develop a better mechanistic understanding of the health-promoting effects of nature exposure.

Dr Lin Shengwei Ervine
Senior Lecturer
Programme Director Bachelor of Landscape Architecture, Department of Architecture
National University of Singapore (NUS)

Topic: Measuring Urban Landscapes for Assessment of Restorative Potential

Exposure to nature is widely suggested to provide multiple benefits, including the capacity to trigger mental restoration. This makes it essential to integrate natural elements into urban landscapes through purpose-built parks or neighbourhood greening efforts. Singapore is no stranger to this and has spent decades greening the city into its current state. However, it is unclear what kind of greenery typologies should be prioritized in relation to the urban environment, and how the two interact and affect restorative potential. This talk will showcase two novel methods for measuring urban landscapes specific to assessing and predicting the restorative potential of neighbourhood landscapes.In doing so, it will shed light on preliminary research findings which point towards the importance and complexities of attempting to measure such an elusive effect. Such findings pave the way for fresh insights into planning and designing urban landscapes in order to maximise restorative benefits to urban dwellers.

Dr Agnieszka Olszewska-Guizzo
President & Co-founder


Ms Alicia Soh,
Senior Manager, Development Management
National Parks Board (NParks)

Topic: Urban Nature for Mentally-Healthy Cities: Contemplative Landscapes
This talk will provide new insights for integrating natural landscapes into cities with consideration of better mental health and well-being, by delving into the concept of "Contemplative Landscapes" along with its supporting scientific background. Evidence from local and international studies on the influence of contemplative landscapes on the brain will also be discussed, together with the practical implications of how urban planners and residents can harness this concept to maximize the therapeutic benefits of nature. Finally, the talk will also address current and future approaches regarding the application of the Contemplative Landscape Model.
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NeuroLandscape a part of GreenME – the Horizon EU Funded Project!

NeuroLandscape is delighted to announce its participation in the consortium selected for the prestigious Horizon Europe GreenME project  with a budget of nearly 6M euro.

This collaboration presents an exciting opportunity to advance our mission of integrating nature-based solutions into urban environments for enhanced well-being and sustainable living. Led by Universita Autonoma de Barcelona, the GreenME consortium aims to revolutionize greencare and urban planning practices across Europe. NeuroLandscape's involvement in this groundbreaking initiative will commence on September 1st, 2023, as we eagerly anticipate the positive impact we can collectively make on the health and well-being of urban dwellers.


GreenME stands for "Advancing GReenCare in Europe: an integrated multi-scalar approach for the Expansion of Nature-based therapies to improve Mental health Equity" 

This project is an ambitious endeavor that seeks to advance greencare practices across Europe through an integrated, multi-scalar approach. It has received significant recognition and funding through the prestigious Horizon Europe program. This collaborative project brings together leading researchers, policymakers, and practitioners in the field of nature-based solutions to address pressing urban challenges and create healthier, more sustainable cities.

NeuroLandscape's Involvement in the Consortium

NeuroLandscape's inclusion in the GreenME consortium is a testament to our expertise and commitment to promoting the benefits of nature in urban environments. As a key partner in the consortium, NeuroLandscape will contribute valuable insights and practical experience gained from our extensive research in the quality of urban greening and mental health promotion through the nature connection. Our participation aims to leverage wide international network of contacts, insights from evidence-based design, environmental psychology, and the impact of nature on human health and well-being to support the project's success.

Through collaboration with partners across Europe, NeuroLandscape will actively contribute to the development of innovative approaches and solutions that integrate nature into urban settings. Our goal is to foster positive impacts on mental health, physical well-being, and social cohesion through evidence-based design and strategic implementation of nature-based interventions.

The GreenME Project's Objectives

The GreenME project encompasses a broad range of objectives, each focusing on different aspects of greencare implementation at various scales. By fostering interdisciplinary collaboration and knowledge exchange, the project aims to:

  1. Investigate the benefits of nature-based interventions on human health and well-being.
  2. Develop evidence-based design guidelines for creating nature-rich urban environments.
  3. Enhance the role of urban green spaces in mitigating climate change and promoting sustainability.
  4. Establish a European-wide network to facilitate the exchange of best practices and expertise.
  5. Provide policymakers with comprehensive recommendations for integrating greencare strategies into urban planning frameworks.

Expected Outcomes and Impact

Through the GreenME project, NeuroLandscape and its consortium partners strive to achieve transformative outcomes that will positively impact cities and their inhabitants across Europe. By implementing nature-based solutions and greencare strategies, we envision:

  1. Improved mental and physical health outcomes for urban dwellers.
  2. Enhanced ecological resilience and biodiversity in urban environments.
  3. Increased social cohesion and community engagement through nature-based interventions.
  4. Strengthened policy frameworks that prioritize the integration of nature in urban planning for mental health and well-being.
  5. Sustainable urban development that prioritizes the well-being of both people and the planet.

NeuroLandscape's participation in the GreenME project represents an exciting opportunity to contribute to the advancement of greencare practices in Europe. By four years long collaboration with leading experts, policymakers, and practitioners, we aim to integrate evidence-based research and practical knowledge to create nature-rich urban environments that promote well-being and sustainability.

With the project set to begin on September 1st, 2023, we are poised to embark on this transformative journey. We are confident that the GreenME project will have a profound and lasting impact on the way we approach urban planning and the integration of nature in day-to-day urban living.


“Neuroscience for Designing Green Spaces: Contemplative Landscapes” – A Revolutionary Book

Experience the power of "Neuroscience for Designing Green Spaces: Contemplative Landscapes" - a revolutionary book by Dr. Agnieszka Olszewska-Guizzo. This comprehensive guide was released on May 30, 2023. It revolutionizes landscape design through an innovative approach rooted in neuroscience.


Unveiling Contemplative Landscape Design

Delve into the concept of Contemplative Landscape Design, meticulously crafted over a decade of research. Driven by neuroscience principles, this book serves as a go-to resource for landscape architects and architects seeking to effortlessly integrate mental health and well-being into their practice.

This is the first time where I put together the knowldege acumulated thoughout the years.  This book contains all the nuances about design for mental health and well-being. So that landscape architects and architects can easily access and use for their practice.  Before I published only peer-reviewed articles focused mostly on the mental health implications and the performed neuroscience experinents. But I am a landscape architect first, so I come back to my original field with and I hope it will be a useful tool for anyone interested in designing or benefitting from contact with natural landscapes! - says the author.

Accessing the Book

Discover "Neuroscience for Designing Green Spaces: Contemplative Landscapes" available in paperback, hardcover, and e-book formats. You can easily purchase your copy through the Taylor & Francis website or Amazon, ensuring convenient access to this groundbreaking publication.

The book cover of a new book "Neuroscience for Designing Green Spaces: Contemplative Landscapes" It featues a silhouette of a person looking at the beautiful landscape view with a shape of a city on a horizon. There are tall old trees and sunshine shining through them. There are also chairs and a table behind a person standing on a grassy ground


Urban parks and gardens are where people go to reconnect with nature and destress. But do they all provide the same benefits or are some better than others? What specific attributes set some green spaces apart? Can we objectively measure their impact on mental health and well-being? If so, how do we use this evidence to guide the design of mentally healthy cities?

The Contemplative Landscape Model unveils the path to answer these questions. Rooted in landscape architecture and neuroscience, this innovative concept is described for the first time in an extended format, offering a deep dive into contemplative design and the science behind it. In the face of the global mental health crisis, and increasing disconnection from nature, design strategies for creating healthier urban environments are what our cities so sorely need.

This book delves into the neuroscience behind contemplative landscapes, their key spatial characteristics, and practical applications of the Contemplative Landscape Model through case studies from around the world. Landscape architects, urban planners, students, land managers, and anyone interested in unlocking the healing power of landscapes will find inspiration here.

"Neuroscience for Designing Green Spaces: Contemplative Landscapes" - a revolutionary book