Google is pretty famous for supporting “side projects” with its employees. Several of the ones focused on digital well-being and balancing screen time and down time have been curated into one spot on their Experiments With Google blog.
“A collection of ideas and tools that help people find a better balance with technology. We hope these experiments inspire developers and designers to consider digital wellbeing in everything they design and make. All the code is open sourced and helpful guides and tips are available to kick start new ideas. Try the experiments and create new ones. The more people that get involved the more we can all learn about building better technology for everyone. “
From a “paper phone” to a digital walk along the Camino Frances, the different concepts are all interesting ideas and approaches to unplugging and reminding ourselves to get away from screens.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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!
On Friday, September 21, landscape architects and designers around the world participated in the 14th annual PARK(ing) Day to demonstrate the power of public space. PARK(ing) Day helps the public see the difference a designed space, even one as small as a metered parking spot, can make in their community.
I wanted to share this great article from IDEO alum and design Ingrid Fetell Lee about the importance of having a joyful work environment, and what you as an individual can do about it!
She starts with all the important reasons why joyful work spaces are needed:
…Research shows that feeling joy at work not only increases our wellbeing, but also our performance across the spectrum. Joy increases our working memory and cognitive flexibility, which in turn leads to better problem-solving. Take doctors, for example: Those who have been primed to feel joyful make a correct diagnosis earlier than those in a neutral mindset. Joyful businesspeople consider a wider range of scenarios and make more accurate decisions. Joyful negotiators are more likely to achieve win-win agreements. And it turns out it’s infectious: Joyful leaders spread positivity to their teams, increasing rates of effort and cooperation; and when salespeople exhibit joy, customers respond by spending more time in a store, giving higher satisfaction ratings, and expressing a greater likelihood to return.
Full disclosure, right after reading this I did an audit of my desk at work and found I had already implemented a couple of these, including based on the same research she cites, but I missed a couple I am definitely going to add! 🙂
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!
This is yet another great example of how adding some intentional green can go a long way in reducing stress, anxiety, and depression in urban areas. From the article:
“In many low-income communities, vacant and dilapidated spaces are “unavoidable conditions that residents encounter every day, making the very existence of these spaces a constant source of stress.” Furthermore, these neighborhoods with vacant lots, trash, and “lack of quality infrastructure such as sidewalks and parks, are associated with depression and are factors that that may explain the persistent prevalence of mental illness.”
Conversely, neighborhoods that feel cared for — that are well-maintained, free of trash and run-down lots, and offer access to green spaces — are associated with “improved mental health outcomes, including less depression, anxiety, and stress.””
Personally, I would love to see a study about the different effects and impacts of having community gardens or community involvement in the development of the green spaces vs. an independent team coming in to a space and cleaning it up. There is value in both approaches, for sure.
Before: An empty lot in Philadelphia / JAMA Open Network
After: A Green lot in Philadelphia / JAMA Open Network
A tree, some grass, a low wooden fence, regular maintenance. With these basic elements, an unloved, vacant lot can be transformed from being a visual blight and drain on a community into a powerful booster of mental health.
According to a new study by five doctors at the University of Pennsylvania, residents of low-income communities in Philadelphia who saw their vacant lots greened by the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society experienced “significant decreases” in feelings of depression and worthlessness. And this positive change happened at a cost of just $1,500 per lot.
For lead author Dr. Eugenia South and her co-authors, this is a clear indication that the physical environment impacts our mental health. And planning and design offers a cost-effective way to fight mental illness in light of the sky-rocketing costs…
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.
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:
San Francisco photographer Melissa Kaseman knows that imaginative art can come in tiny packages. That much is evident in her latest photo series, “Preschool Pocket Treasures,” which depicts the small objects she finds stuffed in her son’s pockets each day when he comes home from preschool.
“The magic of childhood is so fleeting, and these objects I kept finding in Calder’s pockets represent a chapter of boyhood, his imagination, and the magic of finding a ‘treasure,’” Kaseman told The Huffington Post, adding, “I like the idea of the photographs being a taxonomy report of a child’s imagination, specifically Calder’s. I hope he carries the wonderment of discovery throughout his life.”
Ms. Kaseman has captured a fascinating phenomenon of children preschool age to want to create and keep collections of things they find fascinating. It is both a fascinating way to understand what they are interested in exploring – colors, shapes, textures, size, specific themes like shells or rocks or dinosaurs – and how that interest changes or shifts over the days, weeks, and months.
She is also taking a wonderful, respectful, and playful approach to her son’s pocket treasures by treating them with the same respect and fascination he did, capturing them and cataloging them in a way that showcases them and makes them fascinating to us the viewers.
“Preschool Pocket Treasures” applies an archival idea to capture a child’s growth and evolution.
Kaseman hopes people who look at the photos see “the magic of discovery in a child’s imagination.” She added, “A simple object can hold so much weight in one’s mind.”
In the meantime, take a new look at the things your child brings home from school, or how he has lined up all of his cars. Are they all the same size, color, side by side or in a row? This can provide some insight and wonder into your young child’s developing brain.