Artists, designers and environmental visionaries have all been known to use plants as functional, beautiful pieces of art. As more people become aware of biophilia, the beneficial relationship between humans and plants, there’s an increasing awareness of and appreciation for these amazing installations. Here are five fascinating “living art” destinations across America and Canada.
University of New England’s “Breathing Wall”
At the University of New England in Biddeford, Maine, students enjoy walking by and gazing upon a magnificent living wall that measures over 400 square feet and contains more than 960 plants. This thriving living art not only helps to purify the air but also provides a calming, stress-reducing focal point. Nicknamed the “Breathing Wall”, the installation features five different varieties of tropical shrubs and is enjoyed by teachers, professors and visitors alike.
Chicago’s Rooftop Wheat Prairie
Rooftop gardens usually feature small trees, flowers, or even vegetables. But one Chicago architecture and urban design firm took rooftop gardening to a new level: Studio Gang worked with a team of local designers to install and maintain an entire wheat field on their rooftop. The massive project, covering almost 5,000 square feet, featured winter wheat, wildflowers, shrubs, and trees. This mini-prairie became a thriving ecosystem that successfully produced a staple crop: students and volunteers harvested more than 60 pounds of wheat, and the grain was taken to a local mill where it was ground into high-grade pastry flour. This rooftop green space is not just functional, but beautiful, too. Known as “The Treehouse”, the rooftop is also one of Chicago’s most popular event spaces.
Eco-sculptures of Burnaby
Every summer in British Columbia, residents of Burnaby are treated to the sight of ‘eco-sculptures‘, a living art fusion composed of metal framework, soil, and plants. The sculptures are placed around the city in public parks and other community areas, and they represent animals from the local area and around the world. Horses prance at Deer Lake Park and bears lumber at the base of Burnaby Mountain. Locals love their signature sculptures, and they play an active role in building them. Horticulturists and designers create the metal structures that form the basis for each sculpture, and then stuff them with soil and cover them with landscape fabric. Then, everyone pitches in to insert various plants according to the artist’s directions. The result is a beautifully growing piece of living art. The
Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park
This 158-acre botanical garden located in Madison, Wisconsin, features themed indoor and outdoor gardens, a tropical conservatory, sculpture gardens… and an incredibly large and diverse collection of carnivorous plants! The Kenneth E. Nelson Carnivorous Plant House features the ever-popular Venus Flytraps, along with pitcher plants, sundews, butterworts and other meat-eating plants from around the world. While eating lunch or sipping coffee, visitors can also enjoy a living plant wall in the garden cafe. The vertical structure was recently installed in 2017 and continues to delight guests today.
A Giant Living Bouquet in New York City
Imagine driving the bustling streets of New York, and then coming face to face with a 40-foot long, eight-foot-tall giant flowering bouquet! That’s exactly what New Yorkers saw this spring thanks to the “Broadway Bouquet” installation created by a local landscape design firm. Instead of the ubiquitous cut flowers that make up a typical bouquet, this living bouquet was composed of small trees and flowering shrubs. The temporary bouquet was created as part of the NYC/DOT Car Free Earth Day event on April 21 and illustrated the boundless possibilities of living space that would normally be taken up by a stream of traffic and cars.
These magnificent gardens, living art installations, and thriving sculptures are just a few examples of biophilia at work. Whether you live nearby or are just passing through, make sure to visit and experience these wonders for yourself.
Biophilic design still carries the assumption of a quirky or artistic architectural experiment. But growing scientific evidence clearly states the various benefits of incorporating biophilic elements, proving that this trend of today will soon become the norm of tomorrow. As described by Executive Producer Stephen Kellert from the movie “Biophilic Design: The Architecture of Life”:
“Biophilic Design is an innovative way of designing the places where we live, work, and learn. We need nature in a deep and fundamental fashion, but we have often designed our cities and suburbs in ways that both degrade the environment and alienate us from nature.”
The best place to appreciate biophilic design is in Europe’s architectural landscape, where natural elements can be found even in ancient structures built centuries ago. In addition, with growing consciousness concerning the environment, holistic living and employee rights, significant building regulations have been set in place. Keeping that in mind, modern architects are designing some of the finest examples of biophilic buildings, each project displaying unique workmanship and exquisite beauty.
1. Selgas Cano, Spain
Located in Madrid, the Spanish architecture firm Selgas Cano designed its office in the form of an aerodynamic tube, encompassing its employees with magnificent views of the beautiful forest around them.
The curving fiberglass glass wall gives the building a streamlined look and allows for natural light to enter the space. Desks lined along the wall allow employees to be level with the forest floor, while spherical lanterns light up workspaces at night. Half of the structure is submerged in the earth, which creates a natural system of insulation. This comes in handy especially during the hot summers, when the building keeps cool with no need for air conditioning.
2. Tree House Hotel, Sweden
The Tree House Hotel, also known as the Mirror Cube, is a series of tree hotels providing a one-of-a-kind experience for guests. Located close to the village of Harads, the hotel is unique for its proximity to the Arctic Circle. The brainchild of designers Tham & Videgård Arkitekter, the structure is a 4 X 4 X 4 lightweight design made of aluminum and mirrored glass. Hanging from a tree trunk, the hotel is accessed via a rope bridge connected to the next tree.
The entire structure is camouflaged by the exterior facade which reflects the surrounding forest canopy. In addition, the glass panes are laminated with a certain bandwidth of ultraviolet color. This prevents birds from colliding with the glass. The interior is made of plywood and can accommodate two guests.
3. Bosco Verticale, Italy
One of the most ambitious biophilic projects in Europe can be found in Milan. Meaning “Vertical Forest”, Bosco Verticale is an impressive solution by Italian architect Stefano Boeri to tackle the city’s air pollution. According to statistics, Milan is one of the most polluted cities in Europe.
Residential high-rises host a diverse range of flora including shrubs, small plants, and large trees. For example, the Porta Nuova Isola district has over 500 medium and large trees, 300 small trees, 5,000 shrubs and 11,000 plants. These plants have the ability to convert 44,000 pounds of carbon dioxide into oxygen on an annual basis. The trees also act a screen for dust particles, a noise filter, as well as a natural coolant. Aerial arborists regularly groom the vegetation, as well as examine the trees to ensure they are secure at heights of 400 feet high.
4. Bayerischer Hof Hotel, Germany
Designed by Jouin Manku Studio, the Bayerischer Hof Hotel in Munich exudes sophistication and class. The use of natural elements, forms, textures, and colors ensures that the hotel serves as a retreat for guests. One major highlight of the hotel is its lounge.
While soft green textures make up the walls, the flooring of the lounge is a smooth alternation between textures like carpeting, stone, and wood. The booths in the restaurant feature backlit panels carved to imitate the mountainous terrain of the Bavarian countryside. The huge floor to ceiling windows allows plenty of natural light to fill the lounge space. Guests can recline back on the wood crafted and leather bound furniture while enjoying the robust curvaceous fireplace. In addition, the terrace provides breathtaking views of the city and the mountains.
5. Juvet Landscape Hotel, Norway
Juvet Landscape Hotel is Europe’s first landscape hotel. Blending elements of Norwegian culture, history and contemporary architecture, the hotel is a product of traditional building ideas and craftsmanship.
Located in Burtigarden farm at Alstad in rural Norway, the hotel consists of nine rooms situated on separate sites. Seven of the rooms are landscape rooms, and are essentially “cubes” on stilts, with glass walls that provide stunning views of the valley and gorge. While the rooms feature dark interiors to avoid detracting from the scenery, the bathroom receives sunlight even in the heart of winter. Guests can also enjoy the on-site spa designed to mimic a cave with flowing water, as well as communal meals at the restored farmhouse.
In recent years, large corporations are analyzing the benefits of employee wellness programs and onsite corporate clinics. According to a national workplace study by Mercer, 29 percent of companies with 5,000 or more employees offered an onsite clinic in 2014, a 24 percent increase in comparison to 2012 statistics. Data shows that many employers and organizations are investing substantial resources in employee health, the foremost of them being chiropractic care.
As explained by Larry Boress, Executive Director of the National Association of Worksite Health Centers (NAWHC),
“As employer-managed health care becomes more prevalent with onsite health and wellness centers, we are seeing a greater interest by employers in expanding the service line to include chiropractic care to address musculoskeletal conditions and reduce the use and cost of unnecessary opioids and surgeries.”
What is Chiropractic Care and How Popular is it?
Chiropractic care is a healthcare profession that centers around disorders of the musculoskeletal system and the nervous system, as well as addresses the effects of these disorders on a patient’s general health.
Recent statistics show that:
- There are more than 77,000 state licensed chiropractors across the United States. There are another 3,000 working in academic and management roles.
- Chiropractors treat more than 35 million Americans every year.
- Chiropractic care produced greater results than deep-tissue massage, yoga, pilates, prescription medication, and over-the-counter medication.
- With regards to preferred healthcare practitioner for lower back pain, patients ranked chiropractors above physical therapists, specialist physicians, family medicine physicians, and internal medicine physicians.
What Ailments does Chiropractic Care Treat?
- Neck pain
- Joint restrictions (subluxations)
- Lower back pain
- Leg pain (sciatica)
- Repetitive strains
- Sports injuries
- Car accident injuries
- Arthritic pain
- Post-surgery rehabilitation
What Kind of Treatments does Chiropractic Care Offer Your Employees?
Doctors of Chiropractic (DCs) use a broad range of diagnostic skills, such as therapeutic and rehabilitative exercise assessment, nutritional and dietary counseling, as well as patient lifestyle analysis. Treatments include heat and cold therapies, massage, electrical muscle stimulation, trigger point therapy, and ultrasound. Adjustment techniques are the primary form of treatment performed by a chiropractor. While doing an adjustment, a chiropractor swiftly applies pressure with the hand to reduce subluxation and restore movement. As gases are released from the joint, they make a painless “pop” sound. Patients feel relief from pain unless their surrounding muscles are in spasm, in which case alternative treatments such as assisted stretching and massage are administered before giving an adjustment.
How do You and Your Employees Benefit from Chiropractic Care?
Onsite corporate clinics are continuously evolving to address the needs of employees. There are several benefits to offering chiropractic services for staff and workers.
1. Financial Benefits: According to the American Productivity Audit, severe headache, migraine, neck and lower back pain cause worker productivity loss by 4.6 hours a week, according to American Productivity Audit. Increasing number of research studies highlight the validity of chiropractic services and their drug-free approach to pain relief. Reports by the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics reveal that an integrated approach to healthcare that included chiropractic care reduced pharmaceutical costs by 51.8 percent and hospital admissions by 43 percent.
2. Clinical Benefits: For example, chiropractic care has been shown to have positive effects on pregnant women. During pregnancy, a woman’s body undergoes various physiological and endocrinological changes. A protruding abdomen, increased back curve, pelvic changes and postural adaptations can result in misaligned joints or spine. For example, an intrauterine constraint occurs when the pelvis is misaligned. This reduces the amount of space for the developing fetus. This also creates difficulties during a non-invasive delivery. Chiropractic care helps maintain a healthy pregnancy for your female employees by easing nausea, relieving back and neck pain, reducing the time of labor and delivery, as well as preventing a potential cesarean delivery.
3. Patient Satisfaction: In a study conducted by NIH’s National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 272 participants suffering from mechanical neck pain were divided into three groups. Group 1 received spinal manipulative therapy (SMT) from a doctor of chiropractic. Alternatively, Group 2 took over- the- counter pain medications. Group 3 performed recommended exercises. After 12 weeks, 57 percent of group 1 and 48 percent of group 2 reported a 75 percent reduction in pain, as compared to 33 percent in Group 3.
Boston may be a metropolitan hub, but if you love to spend time in the great outdoors, there are plenty of local trails and green spaces where you can find your fix. Whether you prefer to pedal, row, or enjoy a leisurely stroll, you’ll reap the benefits of sunshine, fresh air, and improving your cardiovascular fitness. Here are a few of our favorite local places and ways to get outdoors and maintain your healthy lifestyle.
Row Down the Charles River
In the 60s, The Standells sang that they “loved that dirty water” of the Charles River. Nowadays, the river’s been cleaned up and the water has been known to sparkle on sunny days. Summer is the perfect time to take advantage of the winding waters and rent a kayak to paddle down the length of the river. Paddle Boston offers kayak rentals, guided sunset tours of the Charles, paddling classes, and more. If you’re feeling daring, why not sign up for one of their Wednesday night races?
Kayaking is a fun way to build upper body and core strength. Maneuvering the paddle over and over makes for a strong back, chest, shoulders, and arms. This is not to mention better coordination and flexibility. It’s a low-impact exercise, so that means less stress on your joints. You’ll also be able to take in the iconic features of the Boston and Cambridge skylines, from the dome of MIT to the gold leaf that tops the State House.
Avid kayakers report that it’s also a good way to reduce stress as you watch the blue-green waters undulate around you under a wide blue sky. And if you join a kayaking club, it’s a way to make new friends as you paddle the waters together.
Get Outdoors and Hike in the Blue Hills
The Blue Hills Reservation is in Milton, Massachusetts, just outside of Boston. It offers trails for experienced and inexperienced hikers alike, so no matter who you are or what fitness level you’re at, you’ll find a trail here that suits you. No matter what trail you set on, you’re sure to find one that offers rewarding sights of the reservation’s marshlands, meadows, and rolling hills. You might find a stunning view of the city in the distance, or enjoy New England’s famous foliage on a wooded path.
Hiking can be as challenging or as easy as you want it to be, depending on the trail you choose and the pace you set. If you can walk, you can hike. Be sure to bring snacks, water, and wear comfortable sneakers or boots with good traction. Put one foot in front of the other and take the time to enjoy the sights, smells, and sounds of nature around you.
Hiking offers a slew of physical and mental benefits. It’s a weight-bearing exercise, so it builds strong bones and strong legs. It builds cardiovascular fitness, so it’ll lower your risks of heart disease and high blood pressure. Beyond that, the relative solitude of hiking offers a meditative experience. It gives your mind a break from the stressors of everyday life. Research shows that regular hiking can alleviate the symptoms of stress and anxiety. Reconnecting with nature works your body and rests your brain. This is a great reason to get outdoors.
Ride Down the Minuteman Bikeway
If wheels are more your style, it’s time to take yourself on a spin down the Minuteman Bikeway in North Cambridge. This rail trail starts just past Alewife Station on the Red Line. It travels 10 miles on an out-and-back path through Arlington, Lexington, and Bedford. It’s paved all the way and popular with runners, walkers, roller skaters, and cyclists alike. Along the way, you’ll pass Spy Pond, Arlington’s Great Meadows, and the Battle Green where the Battle of Lexington and Concord sparked the American Revolution. Keep an eye out and you might reward yourself with sightings of a hawk or songbird in the wooded sections.
What can cycling do for you? For starters, it’ll build stronger legs and lungs and improve your flexibility. Research suggests cycling can alleviate symptoms of knee pain and osteoarthritis, and balancing on two wheels means better coordination as well. When you take your bike out regularly, you’ll enjoy all the mental benefits of cycling as exercise, including higher-quality sleep, reduced stress, and a healthier brain.
These aren’t the only ways to enjoy the great outdoors around Boston. However, they’re a start. All three will lead you on the path towards becoming your best self, physically and mentally. Get outdoors and make the most of what the Boston area has to offer.