community · happiness · mental health

North America’s Largest Urban Orchard Transforms an Old Gas Station in Downtown Vancouver | Inhabitat – Sustainable Design Innovation, Eco Architecture, Green Building

While most of my blog posts focus on playful design and things that create a playful atmosphere, a lot of us don’t have all of our basic needs met in order to be in a playful state. We are often overstressed, underslept, overworked, and detached from community. Play researchers have found evidence that goes along with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs that find we need these things in order to be ready to explore, create, and be healthy. That’s why I also like to talk about what it takes to get us to a space where we feel safe, healthy, and ready to be playful.

Going with the philosophy that gardening is good for the soul, as well as aiming for convenience, a group in Vancouver has opened a huge urban farm and orchard.

Vancouver’s Sole Food Farms has transformed an old gas station into North American’s largest urban orchard! Located in Downtown Eastside, the orchard provides jobs to recovering addicts and those with mental illness, giving them a chance to make a living while raising organic food. The organic fruit, along with produce from three other sites, is sold to local restaurants and grocery stores.

more via North America’s Largest Urban Orchard Transforms an Old Gas Station in Downtown Vancouver | Inhabitat – Sustainable Design Innovation, Eco Architecture, Green Building.

Adding green space to a city, whether it’s a garden, park, or a single tree, has also repeatedly shown to be valuable even to those who just observe the space, they don’t need to even be actively engaged in maintaining it. The garden adds connection to and investment in the land, which is good for building community, and provides a sense of agency for those who might not otherwise have one.

Where have you seen community gardens spring up? What works, what doesn’t? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

environment · Nature

Quantification of how urban green spaces deliver big happiness boost

There have been studies that have found a correlation between nature and calming, relaxation, and an ability to concentrate. But is this effect quantifiable? And how much of an impact is there?

A lot, according to a new study in Psychological Science. The researchers estimate that green urban areas provide a life satisfaction boost roughly equivalent to one-fifth to one-quarter of the increase associated with being married or having a job.

Several studies have suggested that people living near green spaces are less anxious and depressed. But these studies generally don’t account for the possible effects of personality. For example, perhaps more upbeat people tend to live in greener places.

To avoid that problem, the study authors analyzed survey data from more than 10,000 people in the UK over an 18-year period, noting changes in the participants’ well-being and health as they moved from place to place. That way, the researchers could compare happiness in the same person while living in a green and not-so-green area. The team also controlled for factors such as crime rates, income level, and the type of housing.

More at Conservation Magazine.

community · Nature

Grown in Detroit

Veggies can be a powerful tool to fight obesity, food deserts, and create beautification and community engagement. This blog post is a great example…

THE DIRT

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On a modest site downtown, Lafayette Greens yields a good deal more than just food.

By Linda McIntyre

Detroit is having quite a moment in the media at a time of renewed interest in the trials and tribulations of cities, but it’s still kind of surprising to find a small, trapezoid-shaped edible garden thriving among the towers of its downtown. This is Lafayette Greens, designed by Kenneth Weikal Landscape Architecture, on a block that, until now, was best known for its homegrown fast food rivals American Coney Island and Lafayette Coney Island (“Coney Island” is Detroitspeak for chili dog). Now the Coneys are improbably sharing the neighborhood with vegetables, herbs, fruit, and flowers, all grown on a scant half-acre at a busy intersection across from the historic Book Cadillac Hotel (now part of the Westin chain) and the city’s federal office building and courthouse.

lafayette
A little more than a…

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community · design · environment · happiness · Nature

In Philadelphia, More Green Innovations

A great example of re-energizing public space and making it more green and friendly.

THE DIRT

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Last year in Philadelphia, Amtrak started tearing things up as part of new work on the west plaza of their 30th street station, replacing the underground parking garage roof. The only problem was it was right next to a new public space called the Porch, which had been created by the University City District, a non-profit in Philadelphia. So the team with the district decided to create an innovative green wall to block the views of the construction, providing a new model for how to camouflage the unsightly. According to Nate Hommel, ASLA, capital projects manager with the district, an average of 1,000 people walk past the popular Porch each hour. See a brief video about it below:

Hommel tells us that his team worked with local industrial designer Mario Gentile, Shift_Design, to create a “modular system” that can be used by the Porch and other public spaces once…

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