Designer Perspectives Series

Pablo Massari shares his philosophy on the interrelationship
between health, wellness and the environment.

As ripples of the Coronavirus pandemic continue to widen and reshape life around the globe, a need for greater integration of nature into public and private spaces is a necessity to help people live better, healthier lives. This philosophy and understanding of the interrelationship between health, wellness and the environment has long been at the heart of EDSA designers.

During the past several months, nature has proven a balm, providing much-needed relief and an escape for locked-down populations – resulting in the heightened physical and mental wellbeing of those able to enjoy it. The imposed isolation has reinforced the valued notion that people require access to the outdoors to thrive and survive. Everyone needs to engage with the environment and post-pandemic, they’ll desire more intimacy and comfort in natural spaces, opening up opportunities to retrofit overly programmed public parks in our cities with a dominant shading canopy that can regulate our ever-increasing urban core temperature and a network of trails that re-establishes the link between people and nature.

There is science behind this, not least “View through a Window May Influence Recovery from Surgery,” a landmark study from Roger Ulrich, PhD, published in Science in 1984, that found patients with a view of trees had shorter postoperative hospital stays, slightly lower scores for minor postsurgical complications and other benefits compared with patients who looked onto a monotonous brick wall view. More recently, a 2018 survey by the American Society of Landscape Architects found that 82% of directors of assisted-living residences agreed that, “the design of outdoor spaces is one of the most important considerations” in overall design.

With increasing recognition, EDSA expects appreciation of nature to be an enduring outcome from today’s current events. As a result, our profession will have greater influence on the design of neighborhoods, recreational spaces, parks, shopping areas and hospitality settings with a focus on health and wellness to address public needs and demands.

But it’s not only hblankuman health that EDSA designers seek to improve – we also care deeply about the environment and how people benefit from the place we create. Recently, the team weighed the availability of water resources and related costs for a resort project in Cabo, Mexico – recommending to forego a golf course in favor of a less-impactful amenity. The site plan realigned land use for organic agriculture that provides a unique experience, protects fragile arroyos and produces fresh ingredients for authentic farm-to-table dining. In this case, a resilient design coupled with sustainable practices offered an alternative that better serves the community on a holistic level.

In the end, it is our hope that people will embrace and prioritize the benefits of nature now more than ever. If so, landscape architects will be able to have more influence in planning outdoor spaces for health and wellness rather than devising ways to get people more quickly from point A to point B.