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Building Connection Through Landscape Design

How can landscape design be used to create and foster connection? According to The Oxford Dictionary, Connection is defined as “A relationship in which a person, thing, or idea is linked or associated with something else.” In this post, we'll explore some of the ways that Wilson Design Studio Landscape Architecture uses their skills to help people connect with each other, nature, and themselves. By creating spaces that encourage community interaction and by using natural elements in your designs, you can help people connect in meaningful ways. Read on to learn more!

As landscape architects and urban designers, we want to create and nurture relationships with people in our communities, clients, allied professionals, and with our colleagues. We also want to enhance relationships between the buildings, roadways, sidewalks, infrastructure, and plants in the built environments we design. On top of all that, we want to foster healthy relationships between people and the spaces where they Live, Work, Play, Gather, and Learn.

A great number of people aren’t consciously aware that the environments in which we live profoundly affect us. Positive relationships and connections to natural and built landscapes impact our health and well-being in a variety of ways. Including reducing stress, minimizing anxiety, providing clean air, managing rainwater, and mitigating noise pollution, just to name a few benefits.

There is a large body of research that attests to the role played by landscapes in the treatment, recovery, and maintenance of human health. The importance of greenery for city dwellers’ health and well-being is rising. Today, urban green spaces – i.e. greenery in the city such as parks, green areas, schoolyards, and residential yards – are viewed as health-promoting elements of urban design. Interest in how urban green spaces can support and fortify human health is spreading among scientists, landscape architects, politicians, and the public.

“We have entered the urban century. Cities are farther away from nature, with suburbs gobbling up the pockets of wilderness that used to border them,” said Gretchen Daily, senior author of the Science Advances study and faculty director of the Stanford Natural Capital Project. “In all of human history, people have never been so disconnected from nature, and we’re becoming ever more so.”

It is widely understood that a simple walk through a natural landscape has a positive and restorative effect on both our mental and physical health. It's also been shown that a strategically placed tree outside a hospital window contributes to a shortened recovery time.

Experts agree that contact with nature can reduce risk factors for some mental illnesses, improve one’s ability to manage life tasks, and enhance memory and attention. Researchers hope their work will be especially useful in considering the possible mental health repercussions of adding—or taking away—nature in all communities.

“If the evidence shows that nature contact helps to buffer against negative impacts from other environmental predictors of health, then access to landscapes can be considered a matter of environmental justice,” said Greg Bratman, a former Stanford postdoctoral scholar and current assistant professor at the University of Washington.

Landscape spaces, regardless of size, establish the relationships we have with our natural environments and our built environments. We think of these 'spaces in between' as the link that connects our life experiences. We strive to design the connections that are memorable, that draw you back time after time, that put you at ease, and relieve the stresses of everyday life.

While every development has an outdoor component, most people see landscape elements as supporting access or beautification. Here at WDSLA, we don’t believe that every landscape can or should be natural. What we do believe is, when intentionally placed and considered in a contextual design, the primary landscape elements such as; trees, shrubs, ground covers, and soil, foster the best connections for the people in our communities to the spaces and places we design for Live, Work, Play, Gather, and Learn.

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