Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

Remembering Stephen Kellert

Friday, December 2nd, 2016
A yellow-rumped warbler

A yellow-rumped warbler

Stephen R. Kellert, “biophilia” scholar and lifelong champion of the natural world, died on Sunday, November 27, 2016 of multiple myeloma. I learned of his death yesterday from a lovely post by Richard Louv and The Children and Nature Network.

I met Steve on a chilly spring day in April, 2012 at his home in New Haven, Connecticut. He greeted me warmly and led me to the living room/study, where the proofs from his latest manuscript, Birthright: People and Nature in the Modern World, lay on the desk to my right. I wish I had a greater memory for visual details. What color was the sofa I sat on? Did he sit in a wooden chair, or was it upholstered? What were some of the books that lined the wall behind him? He wore wide-wale corduroy trousers, which struck me as perfectly professorial, but was he really wearing a tweed blazer with elbow patches, or is that just my imagination? He was, after all, the Tweedy Ordway Professor Emeritus of Social Ecology and Senior Research Scholar at the Yale University School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.

What I remember most clearly was the picture window, maybe 6 feet tall by 10 feet wide, that took up most of the back living room wall. Through it we could see his wild yard, and beyond that the Mill River and East Rock, a long, tall cliff that rises dramatically from the riverbank. We talked for an hour or so, about his new book, and another co-edited book that had just come out–Companions in Wonder. And about the role of the sacred, and spirituality, in people’s interaction with nature and how difficult that can be for academics to address. I asked him how he was able to do it, and he smiled mischievously: At this point in his career, he could do what he wanted. He expressed his concerns about “evidence-based design” and the danger of reducing things like nature connection and the benefits of time outdoors to mere numbers. In science, including EBD, people have a low tolerance for ambiguity, which may deprive us of the delicious complexity that nature, and our relationship to it, has to offer.

And then something caught his eye and he leaped from his chair to the window for a better view of the first yellow-rumped warbler of the season. He explained, while reaching for binoculars, that their migration had just begun and it was his first sighting of the year. He offered me the binoculars and guided my eyes to the small black and white bird with flashes of bright yellow on its head, wings, and, yes, rump. We settled back down to talk but more warblers kept distracting him. When he apologized, I refused to accept–Are you kidding, I said, what better way to know Stephen R. Kellert than to share in the delight of nature in that moment in his own back yard?

If you haven’t yet read anything by this giant in our field, you might start with Birthright. I also strongly recommend one of the “bibles,” The Biophilia Hypothesis, which he co-edited with E. O. Wilson. And read Wilson’s Biophilia while you’re at it. Kellert’s film, Biophilic Design, is excellent. And the list goes on and on. While it’s tempting to say “a light has gone out” or something to that effect, I really don’t think it’s true in Steve’s case. His teaching, writing, and advocacy still shines brightly, and I know it always will.

Please honor Steve’s commitment to the natural world by supporting The Wilderness Society, 1615 M Street, Washington DC 20036.

Photo from http://www.biologicalcapital.com/board/dr-stephen-r-kellert/

Photo from http://www.biologicalcapital.com/board/dr-stephen-r-kellert/

‘Therapeutic Gardens’ – Book review by Lisa Horne

Thursday, September 8th, 2016

Collaborative and Compassionate Design – Guest post & book review by Lisa Horne of Therapeutic Gardens: Design for Healing Spaces

Photo by Lisa Horne

Therapeutic gardens come in many different forms… Image Source: Lisa Horne

In Therapeutic Gardens: Design for Healing Spaces, Daniel Winterbottom and Amy Wagenfeld expand the conversation on therapeutic gardens and broaden the definition to many places beyond medical facilities and hospitals. This leads to the appropriate question of whether all gardens are therapeutic, which is answered generally with this quote from Robert Rodale: “Gardens are where people and the land come together in the most inspiring way.”1 This book, which recently won the 2016 Place Book Award from the Environmental Design Research Association, recognizes its place in a growing body of literature and adds value to the discussion in its interdisciplinary nature and its challenge to the concept that therapeutic gardens are limited to certain places. As an occupational therapist, Amy Wagenfeld infuses the text with an empathy and warmth not often found in design books.

The book can be divided into three sections of overview, therapeutic garden typologies, and maintenance. The first two chapters give a general overview. “Foundations” looks at history, theory, research, and applications from the perspective of an occupational therapist. “Collaborative Design” discusses the design process with a case study of a courtyard designed for Japanese Americans at a senior care facility and identifies various design elements for therapeutic gardens. The typology chapters each have a broad topic such as movement, solace, or learning and examine specific kinds of gardens within that topic such as gardens for children with cancer or children with obesity. Each kind is described fully and followed with a brief section of specific design considerations. Each typological chapter has at least one “Closer Look” section, a case study that illustrates one of the kinds of gardens. Most case studies have plans.

Two prevailing and interrelated ideas of collaborative design and compassionate design weave through the book. Collaborative design is not a new concept. It is often acknowledged, but less frequently practiced in the profession. Collaboration can take a back seat for fear that engaging users could redirect the project inappropriately. Where this particular book adds value is its fearless and detailed narrative of what collaboration actually looks like. It implies that landscape architects can creatively design ways to overcome barriers such as language, culture, and socioeconomic status to include more challenged groups. One specific example was a project in Guatemala City in which there was a language barrier. The participants tagged images in books or created collages and models in clay. The compassionate argument is also imbued through the text. There is an emphasis on universal design principles and sensitivity to the nuances of impairment, disability, and handicap. It is not just semantics, but rather is intended to place the person at the center of the design. The closing paragraph of the “Afterword” emphasizes this concept by stating that great design is both responsive and compassionate.

Perhaps the most distinctive element of the book is its warmth of tone. There is elegance to the text. The introductory chapters carry the reader through complex intellectual territory complete with references to phenomenology and the more nuanced explanations of definitions with finesse. The photographs are up to date, high quality, and a visual delight. As a picture book for ideas, it delivers. The plan diagrams lucidly communicate the central point with no additional embellishment. More technical readers may miss footnotes or endnotes to follow up on some of the more provocative points in the text although there is a complete list of references at the end of the book.

Photo by Lisa Horne

…And different sizes. Image Source: Lisa Horne

Although the intended audience is not explicitly stated, we have several clues from the text. Landscape architects are mentioned in the final paragraph of the “Afterword.” The second chapter gives an overview of the design process, which would have merit for students of landscape architecture. The book will be on my list of go-to books for visual inspiration, but it is not as deeply technical as some other related books. For example, Therapeutic Landscapes by Clare Cooper Marcus and Naomi Sachs goes into the more technical aspects of meeting the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) requirements for therapeutic gardens in medical settings, which are not mentioned here.

This book is a rare piece of interdisciplinary collaboration between a landscape architect and occupational therapist and functions as both a source of inspiration for students and practicing landscape architects and a manifesto for compassionate, user-centered design. It adds a valuable voice to an ongoing conversation in our profession.

Photo by Lisa Horne

Interdisciplinary collaboration inspires design. Image Source: Lisa Horne

1 Winterbottom, Daniel, and Amy Wagenfeld. Therapeutic Gardens: Design for Healing Spaces. Portland, OR: Timber Press, 2015.

Note: Timber Press provided a review copy for the writing this book review.

Lisa Horne, ASLA, is a project director at RVi in Dallas, Texas, and past co-chair of the ASLA Children’s Outdoor Environment Professional Practice Network. She may be reached at lhorne (at) rviplanning.com. Many thanks, Lisa, for another terrific book review!

 

Last-minute gift shopping ideas!

Monday, December 21st, 2015

http://www.healinglandscapes.org/shop/

In case you’re still looking for that perfect gift for someone special (including yourself) have a look at our TLN Store! Lots of beautiful items, all with our Echinacea mascot (thank you, Henry Domke).

And if books are more your thing, see this “TLN Recommends” blog post. We’ll be adding some new ones to that list soon.

http://www.healinglandscapes.org/shop/

“I love my TLN baseball tee!”

 

Designed for the Future: 80 Practical Ideas for a Sustainable World

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2015

Designed for the Future: 80 Practical Ideas for a Sustainable World

Wait. Take a deep breath. Before you throw your hands up in hopeless despair that the world is coming to a quick and ugly end, I have a book for you to read. Jared Green, author of Designed for the Future: 80 Practical Ideas for a Sustainable World (Princeton Architectural Press) asked 80 global leaders who shape our built environment (architects, urban planners, landscape architects, journalists, artists, and environmental leaders) the question, “What gives you hope that a sustainable future is possible?” Each one-page answer, illustrated with an image on the opposite page, is thought-provoking, informative, and inspiring.

In the introduction, Green says his book “represents the collective wisdom of a hive mind.” And it really does. With my particular interest in landscapes for health and healthcare, I especially enjoyed John Cary’s “Butaro Hospital” and Tim Beatley’s “Koo Teck Puat Hospital.” (Full disclosure, I also have an excerpt in the book, about Central Park as an ideal example of “nearby nature”). While all of the essays resonated with me in one way or another, a few stand out: Janine Benyus’ “Termite Mounds,” Jeff Stein’s “City Repair,” John Peterson’s “Holding Pattern,” Janet Echelman’s “Park(ing) Day,” and J. Meejin Yoon’s “The Lightning Field.”

Designed for the FutureGreen tell us that “We can’t give up yet.” He also says,

And reading through all the answers, I thought again that hope is perhaps the most valuable currency we have, as it motivates all our actions–from creating a world-changing new technology to preserving a beloved old building or town or square to protecting a threatened community or ecosystem. We have the answers.

The book is a really good read, and designers will appreciate it for the aesthetics as well–not what you’d usually think of for the beach, but pack it along, you won’t be disappointed.

 

‘Birthright’ by Stephen Kellert – Book review by Lisa Horne

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2015

This excellent book review of ‘Birthright’ is by Lisa Horne, ASLA

Birthright cover. Image Source: Yale University PressAs the keynote at the 2013 national American Society of Landscape Architects annual meeting and expo in Boston, Stephen Kellert gave a provocative presentation for the profession. “Biophilia” is a relatively new concept in design and Kellert’s recent work Birthright gives a heartwarming survey of ideas with relevancy to design and theory.

Birthright provides a basis for incorporating nature into our lives. Kellert leaves classifications of nature open-ended and defines biophilia as a love of life. We have an innate desire for nature, which is “a birthright that must be cultivated and earned” (Kellert xiii). This attitude neither advocates a return to an Arcadian past nor forecasts apocalyptic doom. Instead, he asserts that humans will recognize their own self-interest and benefit from investing in the environment. An audience of academics, leaders, policy makers, and professionals interested in biophilia will appreciate the pace, text, and reasoning. (more…)