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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.

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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?

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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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A landscape architect’s experience of Chelsea Flower Show 2018 (PART_4)

These three very special gardens of the Chelseas Flower Show 2018, were featured this year on the NeuroLandscape blog:

  1. Feel good garden
  2. Morgan Stanley garden
  3. Lemon Tree Garden

They are a great source of information and inspiration on how to create healthy space through the landscape design, right selection of plants, materials, textures and shapes. This year, the dominant color palette were  definitely different shades of purple. This colour has a powerful impact not only on our mood but also behaviors. It calms and soothes, silences and regenerates the nervous system, enhances creativity and spirituality. It’s best for relaxation. Blues and greens create a calming atmosphere as well.

As a landscape architect, through  visiting this year’s Chelsea gardens I got inspired by some design strategies to create a space that has a positive effect on our well-being and mental health:

  • cool – toned colors of the plants and materials that have a calming and relaxing effect on people’s state of mind (whites, pinks, purples and blues),
  • variety of plants – next to ornamental plants we should remember about aromatic herbs, evergreen species, perennials and grasses, which provides variety of textures during whole year,
  • encouraging wildlife – observing birds can make us more happy and relaxed,
  • creating an interesting route and/or something beautiful to look at and focus on, which will help to forget about everyday stress and problems.

I am very glad that such prestigious show like Chelsea provides people a great opportunity to explore solutions to some of the actual most pressing not only environmental but also social and economic challenges. This year’s gardens are great, healthy places that make people feel very comfortable and at ease, offer spaces that increase social interaction, reduce stress, antisocial behavior and isolation. Luckily, the community awareness of how the public health can be enhanced by increasing access to green and blue space and improving the quality of our natural environment is a growing trend.

We are more and more involved in issues related to green areas in places where we live, ready to fight for better, greener cities to live in and enjoy in the harmony with nature. We look to the future with hope that it will be possible to prevent or slow down the progress of many diseases related to our mental health, looking beyond traditional treatments and medicines, through a range of activities, including gardening and spending time in a high quality, healthy and sustainable green spaces.

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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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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.