Author: Sarah Tavares
Translator: Sarah Tavares
Ecosystems impact human well-being, and the way a person perceives the environment can directly influence their health. Psychology shows that “humans possess an innate tendency to seek connections with nature and other forms of life” (Rogers, 2019). For this reason, it is necessary to search for ways to integrate society with its surroundings—both must have a harmonious relationship that promotes welfare and sustainable practices simultaneously— without harming the natural systems and exhausting finite resources.
Building with well-being in mind
It’s human nature to feel the need to return to the environment to recharge. When picturing relaxing places, it is common to think of mountains, oceans, forests, fields, and gardens. Consequently, camps, beaches, and parks, among other natural spots, are always crowded during the high season and vacation periods.
The Battery Playscape, located in Manhattan, is three times the size of a playground and is made only with sustainable materials since the park focuses on bringing the natural landscape into the urban area. The park has five granite slides implanted in the ground and ramps accessible for people with reduced mobility.
According to the renowned architect Le Corbusier: “Human creation must become solidary to natural creation. Nature provides us with unlimited teachings, and life is manifested in it”. Green and blue spaces bring countless benefits, reducing blood pressure, heart rate, and muscle tension.
In addition to the natural landscaping, perennial trees free of toxins have been cultivated in the area. Therefore, the sustainable playscape took full advantage of the pre-existing conditions in the terrain, its topography, and landscaping to bring an inclusive environment for children.
Scientific studies show that 95% of people feel less depressed, anxious, and stressed after time outdoors (Mind, 2007). Interacting with the natural environment brings a sense of calmness and balance. Children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), for example, have their attention span increased by connecting with nature (Taylor, 2008). Being So, spending time outside can improve mental health and cognitive functions.
Uniting community spaces with nature
Building spaces aiming at sustainability is a manner of connecting societies to their respective ecosystems. Such spaces can also bring a sense of community and unite people by developing a perception of the natural landscape around them. It is necessary to design spaces that manage to sustain the relationship between man and the environment.
One example is the Public Plaza Intervention Project, made by building construction students from the Federal Institute of Education, Science, and Technology of São Paulo. This ecological plaza promotes the physical and emotional well-being of the community, including adapted facilities for people with reduced mobility.
The playground, gym, volleyball, and soccer fields encourage the practice of activities in the open air, surrounded by the local, natural landscape. The public plaza aims to be self-sufficient, using clean energy (photovoltaic power poles) and a water harvesting system for irrigation. All materials employed are sustainable or recycled, such as ecological bricks and tires made of discarded rubber/plastic.
Benefits of environmental harmony
Inevitably, it is necessary to design spaces encouraging all ages to interact with their surroundings. Sustainable solutions ensure access to nature in a way that does not harm it by achieving a harmonious unification between man and the environment. Appropriating from nature to create forms of recreation might also help with physical, mental, cognitive, and social development, as contact with the landscape assists in physical and mental rehabilitation. It provides inclusion for those who need more accessible spaces of recreation. Therefore, it is necessary to conciliate our connection to nature with sustainable strategies for a better living style and a greener future.
Le Corbusier, Manière de penser l’urbanisme, 2nd edn, Paris, Gonthier, 1963.
Mind Organization. (2007). Ecotherapy: The green agenda for mental health. UK: Mind Publications.
Rogers, Kara. “biophilia hypothesis”. Encyclopedia Britannica, 25 Jun. 2019, https://www.britannica.com/science/biophilia-hypothesis. Accessed 8 June 2022.
STARR WHITEHOUSE Landscape Architects and Planners PLLC. “Battery PlayScape”, New York. https://www.starrwhitehouse.com/project/battery-playscape/ . Accessed 11 June 2022.
Taylor, A., Kuo, F. (2008). Children with attention deficits concentrate better after walking in the park. Journal of Attention Disorders; 12 (5), 402-09.