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Healthy Outdoor Spaces:
Activating the Outdoors
with Purpose
“Every day is a new opportunity to experience the benefits of being outdoors, and our goal is to use design to make these experiences more frequent, enjoyable and unique,” says Landscape Forms Chief Creative Officer, Kirt Martin.
Caption: Hallmarks of the new Healthy Outdoor Spaces collection include clear visual cues on site furnishings to denote appropriate distancing, modular panels and barriers to direct flow of public traffic, and structural elements that elegantly define safe spaces for small groups.
The mission Martin describes is Landscape Forms’ founding focus and has been driving innovation at the company for over 50 years. “Our company was founded on the belief that being outdoors is not just enjoyable, but an integral part of a healthy lifestyle and overall personal well-being,” says Landscape Forms Chief Executive Officer, Marjorie Simmons. This connection between time spent outdoors and benefits to physical and mental health may seem obvious to some – something that has become a topic of substantial scientific research.
According to Dr. Sara Warber, Clinical Professor Emeritus of Family Medicine at University of Michigan, the connection is clear—our health is deeply intertwined with getting outside and spending time in nature. “While it’s something that we intuitively understand as humans, studies prove the health benefits of spending time outside. The emotional benefits of being outdoors are the best studied and most well-known—when outdoors, people's reported mental well-being is generally improved, positive emotions are enhanced, perceived stress is down, and feelings of depression are down,” says Dr. Warber. “But what I find even more fascinating is how the environment can actually change our physiology. There is more and more budding research that suggests when in nature, our immune system changes, our endocrine system changes, and our heart rate variability changes into a more nurturant state rather than an anxiety-stress state.”
Caption: Carousel+ line of tables and benches emphasizes physical and emotional well-being while still enabling landscape architects to create a suite of complementary settings, for a range of purposes and interactions, with a common design vocabulary throughout a site.
These benefits have increasingly come to light as we continue to encounter the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. In the face of the uncertainty and stress of our current situation, people turn to outdoor experiences for solace and relief, and in the face of a public health crisis, communities need innovative outdoor spaces to mitigate risk while enabling people to engage in the fundamental aspects of daily life. "Today, more than ever, there’s a need for people to work, study, meet and eat outdoors,” says Kirt Martin. “But it’s important to create spaces in which people feel comfortable, where they feel in control of their environment. For me, Upfit is the ultimate embodiment of this balance.”
One of Landscape Forms’ most successful product collections, Upfit is an adaptive structure system that gives designers and landscape architects the tools to create tailored destinations that capitalize on a site’s underutilized outdoor space. Upfit defines and delineates space, bringing the familiarity and functionality of indoors out. This year, in the new era of social distancing and moving work, study and other activities outdoors, Upfit’s benefits and significance have become even more acute. Adaptive, modular and scalable, it transforms previously unused outdoor areas into work spaces, classrooms, dining areas and meeting hubs, fully powered, lit and with the amenities people need to be comfortable and productive.
Caption: Artful House is an innovative new solution for elegantly facilitating intimate gatherings, meetings, or small group discussions in a way that respectfully yet unmistakably communicates the desire for distance.
The challenge to keep people both safely distanced, yet still very much connected to each other and to their natural environment is at the heart of another recent collection from Landscape Forms, Healthy Outdoor Spaces. In creating Healthy Outdoor Spaces, there was a concerted effort on designing products and solutions that enable people to maintain that safe physical distance without sacrificing their social or emotional wellness. Hallmarks of the new collection include clear visual cues on site furnishings to denote appropriate distancing, modular panels and barriers to direct flow of public traffic, and structural elements that elegantly define safe spaces for small groups.
The nature of products in the Healthy Outdoor Spaces collection ranges from elegant and practical, to thought-provoking, and even fanciful. Wedge Table, for example, is a modular desk system that elegantly prescribes individual user spaces while maintaining safe distancing across a variety of seamless configurations. While Artful House is a modern and stylized vision of home—an intriguing solution for intimate gatherings, meetings, or small group discussions that respectfully yet unmistakably communicates the desire for distance. Despite the diversity of aesthetic language, the commitment to integrity of design, beauty and craft for which Landscape Forms is known persists. Additionally, the Healthy Outdoor Spaces initiative also includes a “quick ship” program on select products, a helpful guide on designing for social distancing outdoors, and information on special ordering for customized Landscape Forms products to meet specific applications.
Caption: Our latest addition to the Upfit offering, Upfit Zones, includes further options to clearly define and delineate interior spaces.
Landscape Forms has long promoted the idea that integrating unique and innovative outdoor experiences into public spaces plays a key role in elevating the quality of life of the community. So, while many of these solutions have been designed specifically to address the new concerns of the times, the overall benefits of activating and beautifying underutilized outdoor spaces are far-reaching and enduring. "Extending and modifying our existing structure of innovation to alleviate new public health concerns while still enabling the activation of underutilized outdoor spaces is a very natural step for us,” concludes CEO Simmons. "Our focus is in giving our customers the tools and inspiration to move forward with confidence and creativity—both in the immediate time period and in the more distant future.”