Born in Nashville, Tennessee, living across the world and, now, living across the country, I want people to understand to simply “trust the process”. Be in good faith of one’s own choices. My journey has been rolling and winding, but it has always been progressive, elevating me to new heights. Every twist and turn has been a stepping stone to get me to where I am today, and I wouldn’t change a thing about it. My psychological background has been the backbone of my career as an aspiring and mindful professional of the built environment who attempts to navigate and understand the relationships between people and their coexistence with the systems in which they inhabit. This stream of consciousness dials in as a brief moment of commentary that addresses the larger context of things that I am passionate about and value at-large such as equitable spaces, general well-being, and looking towards nature for pragmatic solutions.
Equity and Access to Open Space, Human Desire for Recreation and Healing in a City
- Cities are becoming much denser as they experience urbanization. As cities grow, there is an increased need for housing, retail, office space, and other services. During times of construction, trees are removed, open spaces are lost, and people are displaced without a hint of restitution. We need to holistically resolve issues of upward mobility and well-being. We need green spaces, plazas, playgrounds, gardens and programmable spaces to relieve stress, reduce crime and air pollution, provide healthy food access, and create space for community gatherings.
- The Trust for Public Land states that “there is a correlation among poverty, minority status, obesity, ill health, and neighborhood factors that discourage exercise, including the absence of parks and recreation facilities.” A 2005 University of Southern California study of park access in Los Angeles found that people who live in areas of low income or concentrated poverty and in Latino, African American, and Asian American/Pacific Islander neighborhoods are less likely than people living in largely white neighborhoods to have nearby access to parks, playgrounds, and other exercise facilities.
- We must design spaces that not only allow you to live, work and play but to heal, too. Underserved communities experiencing blight and discrimination strategies or communities devastated by war transform into environments referred to as traumascapes. These are places that have been marked with pain, violence or loss, and solutions such as developing them into ‘healingscapes’, if you will, go beyond healing gardens of hospitals or moments of sanctuary in a park.
- There are some recent developments within our community such as the Legacy Museum, situated on a site in Montgomery, Alabama, where enslaved people were once warehoused, or Destination Crenshaw, a 1.3-mile stretch along Crenshaw Boulevard of public art and streetscape design built for, by, and in honor of Black LA. Even more recently, the city is commemorating community leader Nipsey Hussle by renaming the intersection of Slauson and Crenshaw to “Nipsey Hussle Way”.
- We need to start becoming more conscious about the healing component in design, acknowledging what has been done to certain communities and how resilient they have continued to be despite it all.
- On a broader scale, one must think about what truly makes a legacy city. Creating quality civic spaces is a way to do so. They create moments where diversity is welcomed to enable beautiful cultural intertwinement and exchange. The Olympics are coming to LA in 2028, and the world will be watching. It’s vital to provide a hospitable experience, leaving positive impact that’s forever memorable.
Biophilic Design & Biomimicry, Looking to Nature for Solutions
- As we take nature for our pleasures and introspection, why not look to them as other functional solutions? For example, the Butaro District Hospital designed by MASS Design Group, planted trees and shrubs to help stabilize the steep hillside, created shaded seating areas to encourage patients to remain outside where the chance of airborne disease transmission is greatly reduced, and minimized hardscaped areas, favoring semipermeable landscaping to prevent the formation of pools of water that can serve as breeding sites for vector-borne diseases.
- Our peoples have been using similar methods since the beginning of mankind, and some questions begin to stir:
- Although there is a sense of resurgence in turning back to nature for solutions, how did the pendulum begin to sway away from these strategies in the first place?
- How do we claim to be the most technologically advanced species on the planet or within the known universe, but we have lead our future generations and the rest of humanity into a state of disrepair? How can this be when we are not in harmony with what is providing us life and giving us a place called ‘home’?
- How do we grapple with and process timeless ancestral knowledge that translates to contemporary solutions?
- We are headed into a direction that is almost at a point of no return, but I remain in faith and hope. There are great efforts being done on a global scale that are making strides in the right direction that I believe will save us at earth’s tipping point and moment of saving grace.
- There are sustainable solutions available. At times, they tend to be more costly on the front-end or take longer for a return on investment (ROI). In other times, the solution is a matter of having an innovative thought process, but clients may be reluctant to experiment with pilot projects. Extensive research should be done on payback period solutions and unique agreements for implementing better environmentally-conscious development.
These are my own meandering thoughts that I juggle with from time-to-time.
The integration of nature as a solution and access to it are concepts that can both harmonize us with earth and with one another.
I look to the future with an optimistic eye. If you’d like to talk with me about any of the topics above or more, feel free to contact me on LinkedIn or [email protected].