When it comes to the biggest trends that will reshape the urban environment in the future, it’s not just the architecture that will change. The next major revolution in urban design will be by landscapers. In fact, in some cities, landscaping — in the form of parks and other green spaces — is already making an appearance.
The positive effects on health, comfort, happiness and even local wildlife are startling. Let’s take a look at some of the major cities around the United States that have put landscaping to work as part of their urban design.
New York, New York
New York has undergone a major push to add more green to the city. If you visit the Official Website of the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation, you’ll notice that city planners have built miles upon miles of greenways, which are great for biking and hiking, and can even be used as part of a commute to work or shopping destinations. Not only does this give residents a great place to escape city sights, but it also gets them active — outside walking or biking and exploring nature, which is a healthy activity.
Interestingly, New York has taken things a step further than simple parks and greenways, too. In Manhattan’s West Side, you’ll find the High Line Park, which is a beautifully landscaped elevated rail line. This project is particularly unique in that it exposes people to greenery in a contemporary way while also giving them a bird’s-eye-view of Manhattan’s architecture.
This city is leading the way when it comes to urban landscaping. Portland has a plethora of green spaces, such as the Washington Park, which includes the Hoyt Arboretum. There is also Forest Park, which is among the largest forest reserves in the United States. All of these places are destinations for people to hike, bike, or simply relax and enjoy the scenery.
Like New York, Portland has put its own unique twist on urban landscaping. According to F. Kaid Benfield from the Huffington Post, a unique space called the Children’s Garden (located at the Legacy Emanuel Medical Center) was built to promote healing and wellness. This garden is open to the public, and it is a beautiful place for patients, their family and the staff of the hospital to rest among highly therapeutic surroundings.
Chicago is known for the beautiful natural areas all along the banks of Lake Michigan, but the city has taken its urban design even further. Among other things, the city redesigned an industrial area, which became Millennium Park, a 5-acre garden that features art installations and a concert venue. One of the great things about this park, aside from the mingling of art and nature, is that it hosts one of the largest green roofs in the world. Not only is Millennium Park a beautiful and valuable space, but it also sets an example of the things that can be done with landscaping technology.
How Does Landscape Architecture Improve the Health and Well-Being of a City?
There are a few very simple ways that greenways, parks and other urban landscape features improve the health of the populace. Chiefly, urban landscaping gives people interesting new places to explore and enjoy, which gets them outside walking, jogging or riding bikes. In some cities, greenways serve as transit — walking and biking paths that people can use to get to and from work or shopping centers. Simply giving people a place to exercise improves the overall health of a city drastically.
Greenery, in particular, is known to have mental health benefits. Because the scenery is relaxing, people perceive themselves to be in better mental health, and conditions such as depression and anxiety are lessened.
One major study, conducted in Toronto, and published on Nature.com, highlights just how much greenways and landscape architecture affects city health. This study looked at more than 30,000 residents of Toronto, finding that landscaping, even simple landscaping, drastically improved how the residents perceived their well-being. According to the study, just 10 additional trees on a city block improves the perception of health in such a way that residents on average feel as healthy as people seven years younger or as happy as people making $10,000 more per year.
As you can see, the effects of urban landscaping are huge. So huge, in fact, that as city planners become more aware of the benefits of green spaces, landscape architecture will be the next big way to revolutionize life in the city.