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A few weeks ago I took a break to attend a week-long retreat in rural Wisconsin. A change of setting was refreshing, and perhaps necessary. Much of my week was spent walking through open fields and gardens, a nice contrast to my cubicle here at SOF headquarters. I also went on two excursions to some unique and inspiring places: Frank Lloyd Wright’s summer home Taliesin, and Deer Park Buddhist Center.

Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin
Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin. (photo: Andy Dayton)

Both of these spaces seemed to compliment each other as meeting spaces of the old and new. Taliesin’s modern-looking organic architecture was aged to the point that it almost seemed to crumble into the hillside, while Deer Park’s traditional Buddhist decorations were placed on a brand new, modern building. Both spaces carried a certain weight that stuck with me, especially the interior of Deer Park’s temple, which you see pictured at top.

Fitting then that I returned to a staff discussion about Esther Sternberg’s new book Healing Spaces: The Science of Place and Well-being. I’ve only just started reading it, but the book focuses on the relationship between health and the spaces we inhabit — an idea that I can easily connect with my week in Wisconsin. We’ve talked to Sternberg before — first as a voice for our program “Stress and the Balance Within,” then again as part of our Repossessing Virtue series. Sternberg’s book has been showing up in some unexpected places, and it’s raised the question of whether we might have another conversation with her. I look forward to continuing her book, and perhaps hearing from her again.

The view from Taliesin
The view from Taliesin. (photo: Liz Sexe)

Image at top: inside the Deer Park Buddhist Temple. (photo: Liz Sexe)


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6 Comments

It should be unexpected at all that landscape architecture, particularly a large faction of the professionals that deal directly or indirectly with the design of healing spaces, would be interested in the book. Sternberg specifically discusses both healthcare-related design, as well as healthy cities - much of which is directly applicable (or should be) to our profession. It offers not only a window into the physiology of healing space - but also provides some context in which we practice - and is a welcome addition to a small group of resources that guide designers and planners in the day to day - and makes all of our spaces better.

I am a faithful reader of your blog and had pointed out your post to our staff as an illustration of the impact of Dr. Sternberg's studies and her new book in various milieus that we don't typically imagine. Although not entirely unexpected in the context of Landscape+Urbanism, a fair number of the higher profile blogs and magazines devoted to design, architecture, and landscape architecture rarely touch on these ideas in such a grounded, practical, and thoughtful way.

I found it refreshing to read about your concern, as a designer, for the human element -- on actually improving a person's convalescence or the general state of people's physiological welfare through conscientious, informed planning and design. When we're evaluating whether to have guest on for a repeat appearance on our public radio program, understanding the broader appeal of a new book by Dr. Sternberg gives us a fresh perspective, another angle, new ground to cover that might not simply retrace where we've gone before. Cheers.

Yes, when I wrote "unexpected" I was more referring to our previous experience with Sternberg at SOF, which really had little to do with architecture, design, etc. Trust me, it was a happy surprise :)

I have toured Talesin.

I also have attended a service at First Unitarian-Universalist in Madison, WI, while also was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. A excellent way to experience a building is to go when it is being used for the purpose for which it is designed.

Did you check out the "House on the Rock?" We were there last week.

Some really interesting research and implementation on this front... definitely a growing body of practitioners out there, and the book was a happy surprise to me as well. Thanks for picking it up and getting the design connection out there.