Healing power of public spaces subject of research

June 13, 2013 -  By

Research will soon be underway to examine the healing effects of peaceful outdoor spaces. The TKF Foundation’s Open Spaces Sacred Places (OSSP) National Awards Program provides funding for the development of significant new sacred public green spaces in urban settings that demonstrate high quality design-build and rigorous research about user impact.

The Cornell Chronicle reports that a researcher from Cornell University will lead a team that received a $750,000 OSSP award to design, build and research spaces in Joplin, Mo., and in the New York City metropolitan area that will focus on the healing aspects of the human-nature interaction in the wake of disaster.

The TKF Foundation also awarded a one-year, $75,000 planning grant that will allow the team to conduct research to document the efficacy of OSSPs and preliminary design principles for instilling sacred, healing elements to these spaces.

Keith Tidball, a senior extension associate in natural resources, is co-principal investigator on the project, with Erika Svendsen, a research social scientist with the U.S. Forest Service’s Northern Research Station in New York City, according to the Cornell Chronicle.

“Our idea was that open spaces were especially important for a post-disaster, post-catastrophic context,” said Tidball, who serves as associate director of the Civic Ecology Lab and program leader for the Nature and Human Security Program at Cornell. “The OSSPs will be nodes on the landscape where people can connect to values [of natural elements for healing after a disaster], and these places will become portals where people can reconnect with nature.”

The grant will include a comparative study of the two OSSPs focusing on the role that these spaces may play in recovery; the design, building and implementation of the two spaces, which will comprise about half the total budget; and a documentary to share the process and study findings.

Researchers at Drury University will design the space in Missouri, which will be located in Joplin near Cunningham Park, an area devastated by a tornado that killed 158 people and injured about 1,000 on May 22, 2011. The city expanded the park using land where tornado-ravaged homes once stood. The site may include a butterfly garden and an overlook, early designs show.

A location for the site in New York City has not yet been announced, however it will offer a place for those affected by Hurricane Sandy, which caused major damage in October, 2012, to heal. A researcher from The New School and TILL, a Newark, N.J.-based landscape architecture and urban design firm, will be in charge of the design.

The TKF Foundation is a private, nonprofit organization that funds publicly accessible urban green space. It partners with organizations to create OSSPs that “reawaken and reaffirm the powerful connection between nature, spirit and human well being,” the foundation says. They must include a portal through which a visitor passes, paths, a destination that draws in a visitor, and design elements that surround the space and create a sense of safety and enclosure.

 

 

 

 

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