community · design · environment · happiness · health · Nature

Green Spaces In Cities Help Close “Well-Being Gaps” Between Rich And Poor | Co.Exist

It’s a morning of enriching spaces! I am so thrilled to see this work come out as part of the advocacy for green spaces for all!

Do Green Spaces In Cities Help Close "Well-Being Gaps" Between Rich And Poor? | Co.Exist | ideas + impact

Can neighborhood green spaces help close the gaps in health between people of different incomes and backgrounds?

That’s the tantalizing proposition of research by Rich Mitchell, a professor at the University of Glasgow, and colleagues. They suggest that green places are not only good for our health and well-being, but could also play an equalizing role in our cities.

Where you live can have a huge bearing on how healthy you’re likely to be. And, sometimes the gaps open up over just a few miles. A few subway stops in New York, for example, could mean up to nine years difference in how long someone might live.

Mitchell’s research, while still at a relatively early stage, suggests green-space might serve to reduce these gaps.

The research doesn’t prove the strength of the relationship between individual neighborhood services and well-being, but does show that well-being gaps are smaller where services are better, Mitchell notes in an email. Research he’s conducting now, which hasn’t been published, does show green spaces having the strongest bearing on well-being differences.

more via Do Green Spaces In Cities Help Close “Well-Being Gaps” Between Rich And Poor? | Co.Exist | ideas + impact.

architecture · children · community · creativity · design · health

Energy drink maker Red Bull proposes skate-able art investment for Myrtle Edwards Park


The Seattle City Government Parks & Recreation site recently hosted a public meeting to gather input on a proposed public art piece in Myrtle Edwards Park that will be used for skateboarding.

Energy drink maker Red Bull has approached Seattle Parks and Recreation about making a community investment that would include commissioning an artist to design and fabricate a unique piece of skate-able art. At the meeting, Seattle Parks presented the history of the proposed project, followed by an opportunity for the public to weigh in on the idea.

Myrtle Edwards Park is located at 3130 Alaskan Way on the shoreline of Elliott Bay, north of the Olympic Sculpture Park.

The Citywide Skatepark Plan, developed in 2006 and 2007 with extensive public process, designated Myrtle Edwards as a recommended site for a skatedot [editor: which is apparently smaller than a skatepark]. Since 2007, Seattle Parks and Recreation has constructed eight new skate parks and skatedots. Two more are in construction and design.

4Culture is administering the Call for Artists associated with this project. The artist will coordinate the design with Seattle Parks and Recreation.

A second follow-up meeting is planned in June.

I love the idea of creating public art that is actually usable, whether it’s by skaters, kids, or even animals. I understand that some art is best appreciated by not messing with it, but especially in a public space sometimes it’s hard to not want to interact with sculptures or murals. I also appreciate Red Bull’s focus on supporting play in all its forms, although private sponsorship of public spaces is always a touchy, tricky gray area.

Is there a public art piece, or artistic skatedot, fountain, whatever, that you really enjoy sitting on, playing on, or just watching others play? Let me know about it in the comments below.

anthropology · architecture · behavior · community

Parkour and Preserving Playful Spaces

People who practice parkour, called traceurs or tracers, often get a bad rap by city officials, saying they are disturbing or damaging public property. But in fact, often traceurs are some of the most vocal activists for preserving and protecting their environments. Take this story from The Atlantic, for example:

On warm days, when office-tower émigrés can enjoy their lunches next to its calming water features, Calgary’s Century Gardens Park serves as a popular daytime downtown retreat.

But at 38 years-old, the Brutalist public space is starting to show its age. The color of its odd concrete features has faded to a dreary ash, the foliage is overgrown, and the water pumps are failing. Angular slabs create both barriers to pedestrian access and places for miscreants to hide—city park staff complain of finding evidence of overnight drinking and drug use.

The city is itching to overhaul Century Gardens, though how much of the park might survive the process remains to be seen. Early proposals range from sprucing up the existing park and keeping it mostly intact to completely razing it and building a new park from scratch. The park’s age and need for refurbishment has given the city the opportunity to address its magnetism for social disorder, as well as apply a more contemporary approach to urban design.In the meantime Calgary’s parkour community—for whom the park’s structures are perfectly suited—have allied themselves with a local heritage group to try to save it.”Century Gardens is one of the coolest locations around for parkour. Not just in Calgary, but Canada-wide, and internationally,” says Steve Nagy, editor of the Calgary-based parkour magazine Breathe and co-owner of a local parkour gym. The Netherlands-based MunkiMotion parkour group also included it in their YouTube series, “Best Parkour Spots in the World”

more via The Calgary Park Thats United Historic Preservationists and Parkour Athletes – Brandon Beasley – The Atlantic Cities.

This group of traceurs is banding together with a preservationist group in Calgary to save the park. It’s a great example of two seemingly incompatible groups joining forces to preserve an urban space.

I think this kind of collaboration can and should be done more often.

In many peoples’ eyes these older parks, structures, or abandoned lots are just seen as wasted space, or maybe even dangerous, and certainly many old playgrounds don’t meet current safety codes. But for traceurs, or any adults that likes to climb or jump around, these spaces offer endless playful opportunities. I believe traceurs are some of the best urban playground spotters, and they know a good playground or playful space when they see it. Preserving or adjusting these spaces, rather than tearing them down and starting from scratch, is a viable alternative that can appease all parties involved.

I am glad The Atlantic is looking at this challenge over balancing use of space by different groups in urban environments.

Juliet Vong, President of HBB Landscape Architecture, Tyson Cecka, Executive Director of Parkour Visions, and I proposed a session about this topic for the annual meeting for the American Society of Landscape Architects. Sadly, it was turned down, I believe primarily because we didn’t explain what parkour was well enough to the panel. Hopefully next year we’ll be accepted, because I STILL think this is an important topic that needs to be explored more, and we are happy to come chat about it with your school, company, or conference. Just ping me. 🙂

architecture · community · creativity · disease

Adding art to Belltown, Seattle

This is an ongoing project in Seattle of sprucing up vacant office or retail space with art. It’s a plus for the artists, the building managers since it brings attention to their space, and the passersby who are charging to and from work or tourists who stop and linger a little bit longer to view. Always love seeing updates on new projects by this group.

Storefronts

Storefronts Seattle is proud to announce the first two of three projects in the Belltown neighborhood!

Ingrid Lahti
One Pacific Tower, 2006 First Avenue, Belltown
Through June 2013

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Ingrid Lahti traditionally works in neon, but has branched out into illuminated lighting gels in her new installation at First and Virginia.  Inspired by the saturated color in Matisse paintings and Chinese artwork, Ingrid views the illuminated window pieces as a study on the emotional effects of color and light, fitting seamlessly into the vibrant neighborhood in Belltown.  

These installations glow brightly at night, adding to the street-level nightlife of Belltown and kicking off a summer in Seattle with a burst of color.

Chris Papa
2505 Second Avenue
Through June 2013

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Chris Papa, a local printmaker and sculptor, has installed 5 sculptures at Second and Wall, featuring playful sewn wood sculptures conflating art, craft, and architecture.   Interested in the…

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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.

architecture · community · environment · Nature

It makes sense since several studies have found nature in general to be calming and correlates with an increase in concentration.

THE DIRT

benefits
What many landscape architects and designers know intuitively is increasingly becoming proven scientifically. In fact, more and more exciting research appears showing the cognitive and mental health benefits of being out in nature — in places like parks, or even just meandering down leafy streets. According to The New York Times, a new study from Scotland shows that “brain fatigue” can be eased by simply walking a half-mile through a park.

In The New York Times’ Well blog, Gretchen Reynolds writes that “scientists have known for some time that the human brain’s ability to stay calm and focused is limited and can be overwhelmed by the constant noise and hectic, jangling demands of city living, sometimes resulting in a condition informally known as brain fatigue.”

Green spaces help alleviate brain fatigue because they are “calming” and require “less of our so-called directed mental attention than busy, urban streets…

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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

wall3
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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