World Landscape Architecture Month may be coming to a close, but the long-lasting impact landscape architects make on our everyday lives, both professionally and personally, deserves to be celebrated year-round. At its inception, Frederick Law Olmsted, father of landscape architecture, understood the link between landscape architecture and healthy living. That focus remains, and landscape architecture continues to play a vital role in our cognitive, emotional, and physical wellbeing regardless of industry or region. In honor of #WLAM2017, we’ve compiled a brief list of the top 5 ways landscape architecture positively impacts projects, communities, and overall wellbeing.
1. Connectivity + Accessibility
Landscape architecture uses healthy design that encourages community residents and users to get outside, which is crucial since most workforce and learning environments can keep adults and children indoors much of the day.
Whether through inviting streetscapes, trails, or playgrounds, landscape architects also emphasize accessibility, making spaces work for users of all ages and abilities. This includes incorporating not only ADA accessible design elements, but also a myriad of options that seamlessly blend into the natural environment and help create a welcoming area and connection to the built world. Additional design elements, such as strategically placed lights, help ensure maximum safety regardless of weather or time of day; a critical component to connectivity and accessibility.
2. Physical + Cognitive Health
Trail systems and outdoor gyms are just a couple examples of design elements that fall into the LA realm, and provide tremendous health and stress release benefits to users, including helping to reduce obesity and lower the risk of heart disease. A research article published in the National Center for Biotechnology Information found that interacting with nature also improves cognition in individuals diagnosed with depression.
Outdoor spaces are also often designed to encourage socialization. While increasing and embracing such social interactions is critical for cities and local communities, it is equally beneficial to businesses. With most of the professional workforce averaging 40+ hours a week at their place of employment, such spaces and systems can drastically improve moods and emotional wellbeing, which leads to more productive and satisfied employees.
Green roofs, or roofs covered in trees, shrubs, and low-growth grasses, are but one example of the many ways sustainable landscape architecture practices can positively impact an area and provide/protect habitats for wildlife. With the constant strain on natural resources, landscape architects work to incorporate green design elements that provide long-lasting, eco-friendly, and impactful results that may complement other LEED and/or energy-efficient building goals. By using native plants, landscape architects can also help protect nature’s at-risk pollinators.
4. Conservation + Preservation
Environmental impact is a guiding force in all landscape architecture designs. Whether through stream restoration or focused efforts on conservation and preservation of open spaces, trees, and wildlife, designs intentionally preserve the environment.
“It’s always a balance of how physical elements relate to the environment. We are engineers, but there’s a personal relationship to the space. We want something to be functional and aesthetically pleasing. Through collaboration with civil engineers and environmental experts, it’s critical to make sure we protect the environment.” – Senior Landscape Architect Amanda Prosser, PLA, ASLA, CPSI
5. Education + Programming
Creating a sense of place, whether for a community, school, or business, can help embrace a common vision and goal. Landscape designs often serve as an amenity in which programming can be centered around. Programming possibilities can include art walks, apps that residents/users can use on walking trails, or WIFI capabilities in public parks, to name a few. Outdoor spaces aren’t just garnish; they hold real value when it comes to real estate and attracting people to a community or business. Complementary signage and wayfinding also provide the opportunity to help educate users on the beauty of naturalized areas, bridging any gaps that may exist.
While landscape architecture is often seen as greening up a place, it’s evident that the focus is on building healthy and functional communities – both personally and professionally. More than the space between things, landscape architecture is the world around us. Happy #WLAM2017!