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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!

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“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

ABSTRACT

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

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What A.I. says about Contemplative Landscape Model?

It is fascinating how artificial intelligence can provide us with a third-person's view of our field of expertise. It is like having another expert summarising our work from an objective standpoint, making it more approachable for anybody. We recently asked ChatGPT about the Contemplative Landscape Model and its usability for professionals and how its benefits can be leveraged. Here is the Q&A with the A.I.!

What can the Contemplative Landscape Model do?

The Contemplative Landscape Model, developed by Dr. Olszewska-Guizzo, is a research-based framework that aims to identify the landscape scenes that have the highest potential to induce positive mental health outcomes from passive exposure to them. The model does not focus on identifying mental health benefits from nature exposure per se, but instead, it identifies design elements that can enhance the quality of the outdoor environment and promote human well-being.

The model's primary focus is on identifying specific design elements in the landscape that can create contemplative experiences and promote positive mental health outcomes. These elements include features such as water, vegetation, and other natural elements that can elicit a sense of calm and tranquility in the viewer. The model proposes that by incorporating these elements into the design of public spaces, designers can create environments that promote positive mental health outcomes and enhance the quality of life of users.

The Contemplative Landscape Model has practical applications in a variety of settings, from healthcare and educational facilities to urban parks and residential neighborhoods. By using the model to guide their design choices, landscape architects and urban designers can create environments that are not only visually appealing but also promote positive mental health outcomes.

Overall, the Contemplative Landscape Model offers a valuable tool for landscape architects and urban designers to create outdoor environments that promote human well-being and foster contemplative experiences.

What are the seven key elements of the Contemplative Landscape Model?

The seven key elements of the Contemplative Landscape Model are as follows:

  1. Layers of the Landscape: This refers to the different layers of the landscape, from the ground level to the sky, and how they interact to create a sense of depth and connection to the environment.
  2. Landform: The contours and shape of the land are used to create a sense of enclosure and openness, as well as to guide the flow of movement and energy.
  3. Biodiversity: Incorporating a diverse range of plant and animal life can help to create a sense of connection to nature and promote ecological health.
  4. Color and Light: The use of color and light can help to create a specific mood or atmosphere within the space, such as calmness or energy.
  5. Compatibility: The design should be compatible with the surrounding context, including the architectural style and cultural context.
  6. Archetypal Elements: The archetypal elements in the Contemplative Landscape Model are typically considered to be water, earth, air, and vegetation (e.g. forest, meadow, etc.). These elements are often used to create a connection to the natural world and evoke a sense of archetypal meaning and symbolism within the space.
  7. Character of Peace and Silence: The overall design should promote a sense of peace and silence, allowing visitors to relax and reflect.

What is the most important contemplative landscape element?

It is difficult to say that any one element of the Contemplative Landscape Model is the most important, as they all work together to create a space that promotes relaxation, reduces stress, and promotes positive mental health outcomes. However, some researchers have suggested that the use of natural elements such as water and vegetation may be particularly important in creating a restorative environment.

Research has shown that exposure to natural environments with these elements can help to reduce stress, improve cognitive function, and promote positive mood states. Additionally, the use of natural elements can create a sense of connection to the natural world, which can also promote well-being.

That being said, each of the seven elements in the Contemplative Landscape Model - Layers of the Landscape, Landform, Biodiversity, Color and light, Compatibility, Archetypal Elements and Character of Peace and Silence - plays an important role in creating a space that is restorative and promotes positive mental health outcomes.

...but the desert does not have any vegetation and is contemplative...

You are correct that a desert landscape may not have traditional forms of vegetation, but it can still be contemplative and have elements that promote positive mental health outcomes.

For example, a desert landscape may have unique landforms and patterns in the sand that can create a sense of awe and wonder. The play of light and shadow in the desert can also be captivating and calming, especially during sunrise or sunset. The stillness and quiet of a desert environment can also create a sense of peace and serenity.

The Contemplative Landscape Model recognizes that each landscape is unique and that different elements may be important in different contexts. While natural elements such as vegetation are often important in creating restorative environments, other elements such as landforms, light, and silence can also play an important role.

...moreover, the desert is a powerful archetype. The experience of being alone in the desert's harsh landscape is considered an existential experience.

You are correct that the desert can be a powerful archetype and evoke a variety of existential experiences.

The archetype of the desert can represent both harshness and isolation, as well as the potential for renewal and transformation. The vast and barren landscape can evoke feelings of solitude, self-reflection, and introspection, while also representing the potential for spiritual growth and renewal.

As such, the contemplative experience of being alone in the desert's harsh landscape can be considered an existential experience. The vastness of the landscape can make one feel small and insignificant but also connected to something greater than oneself. This sense of awe and wonder can promote a sense of mindfulness and presence, which can in turn promote positive mental health outcomes.

Where in the world Contemplative Landscape Model can be the most useful?

The Contemplative Landscape Model can be useful in many different parts of the world where there is a need to create outdoor environments that promote human well-being and foster contemplative experiences.

In particular, the model can be most useful in urban areas where people may have limited access to natural environments. Studies have shown that exposure to nature can have a positive impact on mental health and well-being, but many urban environments lack access to green spaces or natural scenery. By incorporating elements of the natural environment into urban design, such as green roofs, public parks, or street trees, the Contemplative Landscape Model can help to enhance the quality of the built environment and promote positive mental health outcomes.

The model may also be particularly useful in areas with high levels of stress or trauma, such as healthcare facilities or areas affected by natural disasters. By creating outdoor spaces that are designed to promote contemplative experiences and enhance the sense of calm, the Contemplative Landscape Model can help to improve the mental health and well-being of people in these high-stress environments.

Overall, the Contemplative Landscape Model can be useful in many different parts of the world, especially in urban environments and high-stress environments where there is a need to promote positive mental health outcomes and enhance the quality of life of users.

Can the Contemplative Landscape Model be used in developing countries?

Yes, the Contemplative Landscape Model can be used in developing countries. In fact, it may be especially relevant in these countries, where urbanization and rapid development are often accompanied by a loss of natural landscapes and green spaces.

In many developing countries, the lack of access to green spaces and exposure to nature can contribute to poor mental health outcomes. By incorporating elements of nature into urban design, the Contemplative Landscape Model can help to create environments that promote positive mental health outcomes, even in highly urbanized areas.

Furthermore, the Contemplative Landscape Model is designed to be adaptable to different cultural contexts and geographic regions. It is based on a universal understanding of human responses to different types of landscapes, rather than on specific cultural or regional factors. This means that the model can be applied in many different countries and contexts, including developing countries.

Overall, the Contemplative Landscape Model can be a valuable tool in promoting positive mental health outcomes and enhancing the quality of life in developing countries. By incorporating elements of nature into urban design, the model can help to create healthier, more sustainable, and more livable cities in these countries.

Which social and economic groups can benefit the most from contemplative landscapes?

Contemplative landscapes can provide numerous benefits to a wide range of social and economic groups. However, certain groups may benefit more than others.

One group that may benefit greatly from contemplative landscapes is those living in urban areas, especially those who lack access to green spaces and natural environments. This can include low-income communities, as they often have less access to parks and other outdoor recreational spaces. Contemplative landscapes can provide these communities with a way to connect with nature, reduce stress, and improve overall mental health and well-being.

Additionally, contemplative landscapes can be beneficial for individuals who experience high levels of stress, such as healthcare workers, caregivers, and those in high-pressure jobs. These individuals may benefit from access to outdoor spaces that are designed to promote relaxation and contemplation, which can help to reduce stress and improve mental health.

Finally, contemplative landscapes can be beneficial for individuals who are recovering from trauma or experiencing mental health issues. Exposure to nature has been shown to have a positive impact on mental health and well-being, and contemplative landscapes can provide a space for individuals to relax, reflect, and heal.

Overall, while contemplative landscapes can benefit many different social and economic groups, those who may benefit the most include those living in urban areas with limited access to green spaces, individuals experiencing high levels of stress, and those recovering from trauma or experiencing mental health issues.

How costly it is to implement contemplative landscapes in the city or a neighborhood?

The cost of implementing contemplative landscapes into a city or neighborhood can vary depending on a range of factors, such as the size of the area, the existing infrastructure, the desired design elements, and the level of community involvement. However, in general, incorporating contemplative landscapes into urban design does not necessarily have to be an expensive undertaking.

One simple way to create contemplative landscapes is by opening up views to distant natural scenes. Another key-principles of contemplative landscape design is the use of natural materials and low-impact design elements, which can help to keep costs down. For example, incorporating existing vegetation, such as trees and shrubs, can provide numerous benefits without the need for costly landscaping. Additionally, incorporating low-cost design elements, such as benches, walkways, and water features, can help to create a contemplative atmosphere without breaking the bank.

Furthermore, community involvement can be a crucial factor in keeping costs down. By involving community members in the design process and encouraging volunteerism in the construction and maintenance of the space, costs can be significantly reduced. This can also help to build a sense of community ownership and investment in the space, leading to long-term sustainability.

Overall, while there may be some costs associated with implementing contemplative landscapes into a city or neighborhood, the use of natural materials and low-impact design elements, as well as community involvement, can help to keep costs down and make the project more feasible for a wider range of communities.

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Presentation at the International Conference for Environment and Human Health | HK

18 of August 2022
10:40 AM Hong Kong Time (GMT+8)
*online

Dr Agnieszka Olszewska-Guizzo to present "Neuroscience for Designing Urban Green Spaces: Contemplative Landscape Exposure for Mental Health"

at the  International Conference for Environment and Human Health hosted by Research Centre for Environment and Human Health in Hong Kong.

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Designing & Using School Grounds to Support Mental Health (Video Available!)

The video from the webinar is already available on! The webinar organized by the International School Grounds Alliance and the Children &Nature Network on how school grounds can be designed and used to support took place on June 23rd 2020, and featured research and design insights on how to design mentally healthy outdoor spaces for children.

Everyone interested in design for children will find a lot of inspiration in this video, in other words it's a must-see! We are very proud and grateful that NeuroLandscape could be a part of this insightful panel!

The program featured:

  1. an introduction to the ISGA activity by Kerry Logan;
  2. showcasing international best-practice examples, by Kathrin Schmiele;
  3. research and design lessons from neuroscience by Dr Agnieszka Olszewska-Guizzo;
  4. strategies for the design of schoolyards for students Claire Latané.

Related post

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Designing School Grounds to Support Children’s Mental Health: Examples from Around the World

24th June 2020
9:00 AM Singapore Standard Time.

Daily contact with nature is vital for supporting the mental health and well-being of children and young people. Join the International School Grounds Alliance and the Children & Nature Network for this webinar that will focus on how school grounds can be designed and used to support mental health.

The content will cover an introduction by Jaime Zaplatosch; and the work of ISGA by Kerry Logan; I will emphasize the importance of the topic and present a video showcasing international best-practice examples, followed by a presentation on the lessons from the neuroscience research by NeuroLandscape President Dr. Agnieszka Olszewska-Guizzo , finalized by a presentation on design strategies that reduce stress and anxiety and boost mental health and community by Claire Latané.

At the end we will have a Q&A session and an exciting DRAW together exercise!

For those who cannot attend at this time, the webinar will be recorded and share through the NeuroLandscape Youtube Channel.

Register for free here!
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Our Brain On Perspectives by IMAGINE CITIES | 23rd June 2020

23 June,  6PM MST

In Yuval Harari’s book Home Deus, he states that the greatest leaps in human progress were not simply the result of individual acts. Instead, the greatest leaps have been the result of our ability as a species to cooperate in large numbers.

Join us for an insightful conversation about how breakthroughs in neuroscience have led us to better understand how the brain functions when we’re faced with perspectives that are different from our own. By understanding how our brain works we can better understand each other, improve our ability to work together, and more effectively solve humanity’s most pressing urban challenges.

Special Guests

Agnieszka Olszewska-Guizzo is the Founder & President of NeuroLandscape, a non-profit dedicated to improving mental health and wealth-being through green space design. With a Ph.D. from the University of Porto in Landscape Architecture and Urban Ecology, alongside experience developing numerous research projects worldwide, Agnieszka possesses a unique understanding of how urban design impacts the human brain.

Maria Escobar-Bordyn is the Vice President of Creating WE, an organization that coaches CEO's on the importance of conversations in shaping corporate culture and achieving goals. After spending her early career on HR teams in two Fortune 100 companies, Maria spent 12 years at a global human performance consulting firm where she coached hundreds of hundreds of executives. She has a degree in Social Ecology with a concentration in human behaviour from the University of California, Irvine.

Mitchell Reardon is the Lead for Urban Planning, Design & Experiments at Happy City. Happy City is an interdisciplinary urban planning and design consultancy that uses the science of wellbeing to create healthier, happier and more inclusive communities. Mitchell is also the co-founder of Metropolitan Collective, a group of tactical urbanists who transform unloved and overlooked spaces. He received his Masters of Science in Urban and Regional Planning at Stockholm University and his insights have been heard on CBC News, StarMetro, CBC Radio and more.

Link to registration page

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Take part in our survey and support research and development in the times of pandemic

The current global outbreak of #COVID19 makes the problem of our living space and mental health more relevant than ever. Read more in our recent blog post.  This is why we need new solutions and new approaches.

Please complete this 5-min, anonymous survey. If possible, share it with your family and friends, with special attention to elderly people, who (that’s our guess) could benefit from our solutions the most.

The form is available in 5 languages:

1) English – https://forms.gle/SDfC3reh21pXdWw79

2) Polish – https://forms.gle/5jkfNLn7vrsVRKLW9

3) Italian – https://forms.gle/DMPEYNVtKXFLQ1367

4) Spanish – https://forms.gle/3iUCWRZMJ4HhUYWp6

5) French –https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSchCH4Wzs4Y7eVtHHtsB0SrIbs23-I2mgvIz0vmGjQCsgYzQg/viewform

We envision to share the results from this survey on our website soon, in the form of a comprehensive report.

Stay tuned. Stay healthy. Stay sane.

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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!

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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?