Studying the Psychology of Sacred Green Spaces

Over 20 years, the TKF Foundation has funded the creation of dozens of “green refuges from the stresses of modern life”. With $4.5 million in funding for six new projects, they’re out to prove the physical and psychological benefits of such spaces.
July 6, 2013, 5am PDT | Melody Wu
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In an increasingly urbanized world, we are bound to find a better connection with ourselves in nature than with our WiFi networks. At least that’s the idea that drives Tom Stoner, founder of the TKF Foundation, who along with his wife and colleagues have funded dozens of restorative green spaces throughout the Washington-Baltimore area via their Nature Sacred program, reports Sarah Goodyear.

The foundation recently announced $4.5 million in new grants for six projects, where “scientists from a number of different disciplines – neuroscience, immunology, genomics, and others – will work to study the effects of specially designed spaces on people living in an urban environment or who are otherwise under stress.”

Grant winners will study the impacts of a range of projects: from a landscaped refuge at a Maryland hospital to a verdant retreat in Brooklyn's Naval Cemetery, and a healing environ for tornado-devastated Joplin, Missouri.

Stoner's take on the word “sacred” is not meant to be religious, Goodyear adds. Rather, he suggests "[i]t’s a sense that these spaces are important, intimate. It’s about our individual, personal relationship with nature."

“[W]ith the development of better tools to assess stress levels and neurological response to stimuli, the time has come to measure that ineffable relationship,” Goodyear says. “Stoner thinks that quantitative proof of the health benefits of well-designed green space could go a long way toward encouraging better funding of the kind of places that we need to maintain our physical and mental health in a rapidly urbanizing world.”

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Published on Wednesday, June 26, 2013 in The Atlantic Cities
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