architecture · design · environment · happiness · Nature

The interplay of space and spirit

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Photo by eberhard grossgasteiger on Pexels.com

People often talk about the feeling that a natural space evokes for them – feeling calmed by a sunset, wowed by a thunder storm, awed by being on a mountain top. Even more so, we often describe  feeling close to God or something bigger than themselves when we are out in nature. Whether we are hiking or sitting still, these natural places are often described as “holy”, “sacred”, and provide a deep connection and meaning to the people who experience them.

Elizabeth Boults, ASLA, a landscape architect and educator, recently presented on this idea at the ASLA 2019 Conference on Landscape Architecture in San Diego, CA. She discussed how rather than relying on big data trends to inform landscape design or even public initiatives, it is valuable to understand the spiritual feelings or significance that a place has.

From the ASLA DIRT blog:

With her husband Chip Sullivan, FASLA, a professor of landscape architecture at the University of California at Berkeley, who is a passionate proponent for honoring and designing with the unseen forces that shape landscapes, Boults outlined how one method that sounds a bit wacky at first — tarot cards — can actually be a thoughtful design tool for understanding the genus loci (spirit of place), which is so central to landscape architecture.

Boults believes that landscape architecture is a mix of art and science. Art relates to the “mysterious, non-linear, subjective” process of design, while science is about “rational structures, categories, and typologies.”

Beyond art and science though, there is also the spiritual aspect of landscapes. “Across cultures, people shape landscapes based on their beliefs.” Many cultures have had “gods and goddesses who are guardians of the spirit of places.” For example, Romans believed each home had a genius, which were honored through a shrine.

Prehistoric peoples were attuned to the “atmosphere, the flora, animal life, and geological formations; they listened to the trees, wind, and moon.” Boults wondered: “Are we still listening today?”

Some stubborn ancient beliefs are still alive and well in modern practices such as Feng Shui in China, Vastu Shastra in India, and landscape cosmologies among Native people and across many cultures. Within these cultural approaches to the landscape, it’s always important to “consult the genus loci of a place before starting a design process.”

You can read the full post here.

I am intrigued by the use of physical, tangible symbolism to help illustrate, explain, and solidify for ourselves to better understand what we mean, as well as explain it to other people.

What do you think? I’d love to read your comments below.

 

architecture · community · play

Seattle may get a new neighborhood. How will they incorporate green and playful space?

The National Guard is moving out of its long-time location in Interbay, a historically industrial part of North Seattle. It is near two very posh neighborhoods, close to the tech and business center of Seattle, and right next to the new light rail being developed and built over the next decade.

Seattle wants to be proactive about how they design this new space. There is a sense of inevitability hanging over this project that it will be dominated by high-density condos and be catered to the young urban techies working at Amazon, Google, and Facebook all just two miles down the road.

interbay

But it doesn’t have to be. Or rather, that high-density urban development doesn’t HAVE to preclude itself from ALSO including green spaces and playful design incorporated into the end product.

The location itself is also a serendipitous mix amazing natural features like water and parks in a central location to many in Seattle, at least those north of downtown.

Lots of different consultants and teams are already weighing in on what this area could look like.

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Plan above from of the KUOW article that cued me into this. Notice there isn’t a lot of incorporation of play structures or green space, other than the trees lining the light rail path and a couple of smaller parks.

Interested to learn more? The city is having an open house Wednesday May 15, 2019, to discuss options. It would be GREAT to have voices go and support the need for open play spaces in the new development, whatever it may look like. Bring your ideas and let your voice be heard:

Interbay Public Development Open House

architecture · design · environment · happiness · health · Nature

Singapore Opens New Garden Airport

Singapore is famous for its greenery, dedication to parks and green spaces, and impressive architecture. They have combined all of that into their new international airport.

REPOST from ASLA blog The Dirt:

The new Jewel Changi airport features a 6-acre indoor forest, walking trails, and the world’s tallest indoor waterfall. This restorative mecca filled with 2,500 trees and 100,000 shrubs not only revitalizes weary international travelers but is also open to the public.

This includes an inside bamboo forest, canopy-level train system, and an incredible water feature that also recycles rain water.

Jewel Changi provides that nearby natural respite with a 5-story-tall forest encased in a 144,000-square-foot steel and glass donut structure. During rain storms, water pours through an oculus in the roof — creating the 130-foot-tall Rain Vortex, a mesmerizing waterfall sculpture that can accommodate up to 10,000 gallons per minute at peak flow. Stormwater is then recycled throughout the building.

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As anyone who experienced the stress of air travel can attest, the onslaught of digital signs, loud speakers announcing departures, shops blaring music, and carts flying by quickly leads to draining sensory overload. Now imagine if there was a natural place to take a break amid the cacophony. As many studies have shown, just 10 minutes of immersion in nature can reduce stress, restore cognitive ability, and improve mood.

With Jewel Changi, Singapore has reinvented what an airport can be, just as they re-imagined what a hospital can be with Khoo Teck Puat Hospital, which is not only a medical facility but also a green hub open to the community. Now let’s hope Singapore’s biophilic design culture spreads around the world. International airports are in fierce competition for passengers and regularly one-up each other with new wow-factor amenities, shops, and restaurants.

I realize that Singapore has a lot more support, both culturally and financially, than other places in the world to implement this kind of space. However, hopefully the value from a cultural, health, and tourism dollar standpoint will make it worth it for other countries to invest in adding even small elements of this to their public spaces like hospitals, airports, and other spaces.

See original post.

architecture · community · design · environment · play · technology

Experience Brooklyn Bridge Park in Virtual Reality

An interesting use of VR to get folks excited about parks and the outdoors. I would argue whether this topic really captures folks’ interest?
The design/development team argue that most people in the world will never get to visit or experience the Brooklyn Bridge, which may be true. It’s also a good case study/example of the power of VR to expose people to new places.
This reminds me of other VR introduction projects I have seen, and appreciate using VR for sites that are far away from populated areas, or are too fragile to experience first hand for most folks. Arguably creating VR videos makes folks more aware and interested in spaces, so choosing a location that can handle more traffic is also a safe bet.
I think it’s just my personal opinion I would rather see this kind of video for a national park that’s off the beaten path, or lesser known spots around NY that folks could “discover” via VR. But all in all cool project.

THE DIRT

ASLA 2018 Professional General Design Award of Excellence. Brooklyn Bridge Park, Brooklyn, NYC / Alexa Hoyer

Experience Virtual Reality! Immerse yourself in Brooklyn Bridge Park in New York City, which won the ASLA 2018 Professional Award of Excellence in General Design. Explore this unique park built in part over abandoned piers, guided by landscape architect Michael Van Valkenburgh, FASLA, president and CEO of Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, Inc.

Viewing Options

Option 1: Watch a 360 Video on YouTube

If you are on your phone reading this page, simply click on this URL and watch it in your YouTube mobile app: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nQ2geeXMThI (please note that this video will not work in your mobile browser)

Be sure to turn around while watching so you can see all angles of the park!

Or if you are on a desktop computer, go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nQ2geeXMThI using your Chrome browser.

Go to settings and…

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anthropology · architecture · behavior · community · design · environment · family · happiness · play · technology

How Play Can Modernize Cities

There has been a lot of focus recently about designing and updating cities through technology, rethinking old infrastructures, and so on. IDEO put out some of its own ideas, and the one that stuck out for me the most (no surprise), was Nazlican Gosku’s take on the value of play in a city’s ecosystem:

Play! In the last year, I have started chasing and capturing playful moments in the streets— from graffiti, to a group of kids playing in the water from a broken pipe, to lovers dancing on a street corner. This journey of capturing playfulness in the streets made me more aware and even obsessed with the idea of how we can design the right conditions for playfulness in the city. Why playfulness? Because playing means engaging, engagement brings care. If we are more caring and careful about the streets of the cities we live in, we might build stronger connections for healthier communities. Being playful on the streets requires courage, builds trust, allows for discovery, create communities. Playfulness is fundamental to our social nature, so it’s a useful framework for thinking through how we can build stronger cities and communities.

Thank you Ms. Gosku! So much yes in this!

  • If we are playing with something, we are engaging and care about it, or will care about it more.
  • Humans use play as the framework for our social structures, both in hunter-gatherer groups and on the children’s playfield.
  • Play builds trust and community.
  • It therefore also develops “buy-in” from communities who are more willing to invest in their cities.

Play NEEDS to be part of community planning, whether it is a small community or a huge metropolis!

 

architecture · community · creativity · culture · design · environment · play · Social

Today is Park(ing) Day in the U.S.

This year’s Park(ing) day snuck up on me! I am looking forward to checking out the little parklets that pop up around Seattle and see what other cities are up to.

Twister game set up in Seattle Parklet on Parking Day 2016
A Twister game set up in a Seattle parklet from Parking Day 2016. Courtesy SDOT.

From Curbed Seattle (no pun intended):

It’s the most wonderful time of the year… if you’re a fan of tiny, community-generated parks. PARKing day, which allows citizens to transform parking spots into activated spaces, is this Friday, September 15.

Past years have included creative seating, chicken coops, a bowling lane, and a tea party—even a ball pit.

This year, the day features 47 installations throughout the city. Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) says different installations include “everything from arts and crafts to bike repair and snacks,” plus the perennial favorite—spots to sit and relax.

Seattle Department of Transportation has put together a map of all 47 locations, from Lake City to South Park. Unsurprisingly, there’s a dense belt around the center of the city in the downtown, Capitol Hill, First Hill, and Central Area region—including at least two bike repair stations.

A screenshot of the interactive Park(ing) Map for Seattle:

parking map seattle

Check out more about Seattle’s Parklets.

architecture · behavior · play · Social · technology

“Pokémon Go” Is Quietly Helping People Fall In Love With Their Cities

I have been fascinated with the incredible popularity of Pokemon Go. Some people are seeing it as an “annoying” new game, but I see it as an amazingly powerful tool to trick people into exercising and getting outside, and as author Mark Wilson observes, discovering your city.

In our collective hunt for silly cartoon monsters, Pokémon Go players are discovering history and architecture left and right. Users described their discoveries over the weekend, from Korean pagodas, to a Donner Party memorial in California, to the urban landscape of Perth at night, all documented on Twitter.

Read the full article at: “Pokémon Go” Is Quietly Helping People Fall In Love With Their Cities | Co.Design | business + design

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architecture · learning

Radio Telescope Sculpture Turns Movement into Light and Sound | The Creators Project

Lumiere London 2016 is in full swing, bringing with it various light installations to enhance the city’s most famous locations. 30 artworks will be aglow this weekend at places like Trafalgar Square, Westminster Abbey, Carnaby Street, Oxford Circus, King’s Cross, and many others. At the latter, digital studio FIELD—founded by Marcus Wendt and Vera-Maria Glahn—present their stunning sculpture, Spectra-3. The piece is the latest instalment of their ongoing Spectra series, a merging of physical and virtual sculptures that take inspiration from space, technology, and our relationships to them, to provide elegant and sensory experiences using sound, light, and reflection.Spectra-3’s design and movement is inspired by the radio telescopes of the Very Large Array (VLA) located on the Plains of San Agustin in New Mexico. The piece combines computer-aided design with real-time input from the public’s movements, to inform its physical actions as it rotates on motors, augmenting the space with the enchanting hues and patterns of reflected light and spatialized sound.It’s the biggest self-commissioned artwork the studio have ever done. Built from bespoke steel and surrounded by sensors, at nearly 10′ tall, it’s controlled by custom software which commands the motors, lights, haze, and multi-channel sound.

Source: Radio Telescope Sculpture Turns Movement into Light and Sound | The Creators Project

architecture · design · disease · environment · health · work

Architecture and the Airpocalypse | Architect Magazine

A smoggy Shanghai skyline

A really fascinating read about improving air quality through design by architect Blaine Brownell:

During a study-abroad tour of China that I led in May and June through the University of Minnesota’s School of Architecture (read more about the trip here and here), one topic, aside from architecture, that my students and I discussed regularly was air pollution. Although we were in southern and central China, which are less affected than Beijing and other northern cities, we often found ourselves in a murky atmosphere. For three weeks, we rarely saw blue sky even on sunny days, and the air imparted a palpable thickness.

We checked the country’s Air Quality Index (AQI) daily via mobile app for the local forecast—especially after a bout of intense allergies sent me to a local pharmacist. This led us to question how we as architects and designers can counter such an ever-present problem.

Air pollution influences not only our physical health but also our experience of the built environment. Buildings and landscapes become soft and gritty, losing their clarity, sharpness, and color behind a veil of smog. The azure backdrop that is beloved in architectural representations is rarely witnessed. Rather, gray predominates, at times accompanied by brown. Despite this reality, blue sky persists in renderings of projects in China.

read the whole article at via Architecture and the Airpocalypse | Architect Magazine |.

anthropology · architecture · behavior · community · creativity · culture · environment · health · mental health · psychology · Social

To make our cities inclusive, we need to make them playful again | CityMetric

To make our cities inclusive, we need to make them playful again | CityMetric

A million times yes! This article focuses on one of my biggest pet peeves and challenges as a play advocate; play not being taken seriously.

The author, Hilary O’Shaughnessy, and also the producer of the Playable City Award, discusses her play competition and the usual rub of people asking whether this is really all “worth it.” I’m quoting over half of her article, but she very eloquently covers an entire blog post I was planning on writing (I will still write it, I promise):

Amongst the usual squeals of anticipation [around the competition], there are questions about the value of these ideas to the “real” world. Fun is all well and good – but surely fun is the stuff we get to when the grown up work of building hospitals and roads is done with? When we’ve fixed the economy, let’s play. Cities are full of problems, why are we not fixing them first?

Herein lies the real issue. When we see play simply as fun, a whimsy for those of us lucky enough to have the time to engage in it, we underestimate the transformative power of play and it’s role in our lives.

Fixing problems, making our living and working spaces more livable and resilient, designing better cities, starts at every level with the people that Iive in those cities. Increasingly we are realising that our cities are designed for exclusivity, so it makes sense that we don’t feel part of shaping the future. This is revealed in the language we use to describe our relationships to the services and organisations that our cites are made of. We want them to fix it, they don’t want us to have a say, they give money to them to exclude us: the language is divisive and separating, and that’s the problem. Even the descriptions of the projects fail to deliver what they promise, because a playable city is experienced, not described.

The idea of what our cities should mean, how public money is spent, what we imagine as good for us and who is involved in designing them, is only ever addressed when we have a complaint or we feel excluded. We talk to the city council when the road is road is torn up or the lights won’t come on. We complain that our voices are unheard, but we never seize opportunities to speak, fearing that if we do we will be ignored or shouted down by the loudest ones.

This feeling of separation cannot be undone overnight. We need new approaches, new tools, and new ways to talk to one another about how to live together in cities.

From a different article, but an example of using play as political protest: a device placed in large potholes that tweets whiny complaints when it is run over in order to publicly shame govt. into action.

Conversations about the future, about how we want to live, have to begin from a level playing field, and crucially that level playing field may not be where we expect. Play is a leveler: when we play, we play as humans, first. Traditional status markers like wealth, celebrity, or qualifications are not really much use when invited to dance with your shadow or conduct lights like a demi-god.

Addressing problems and finding solutions that work for us all begin with inviting everyone into conversation. Play as unexpected interventions in familiar places act as invitations to connect, an offer to begin to talk about those parts of our cities that we feel excluded from. To new eyes and ears, some projects can seem esoteric – but that is because we have become numbed to dull public announcements, badly designed flyers and clunky websites which act as information dumps that no-one reads, let alone takes as an invitation to work together. Yet, this is important stuff: we need to talk about the kind of future we want or it be will be decided for us while we look the other way.

via To make our cities inclusive, we need to make them playful again | CityMetric.

You can read about this year’s shortlist and the final winner at the Watershed website.