Nature as a Factor in Quality Development

“If man is not to live by bread alone, what is better worth doing well than the planting of trees?” – Frederick Law Olmstead 

On May 20th, journalist and author of The Nature Fix, Florence Williams took a group of 100 WHA members, WHA Rising Leaders, and other industry partners on a journey of discovery back into the great outdoors. Since the pandemic, a great deal of conversation in the built environment has re-centered around preserving and enhancing outdoor spaces. Florence, along with Matt Baumgartner of SWA and Tricia Brasseaux of Howard Hughes, led a discussion in how these blue and green spaces contribute to the mental, physical and emotional well-being of both communities and individuals. Florence’s opened the talk with a presentation of her research which has taken her all over the world to learn about everything from the practice of Forest Bathing in Japan to studies as simple as the benefits of children playing outside in the U.S. She reported on empirical studies done globally to show reduced rates of stress hormones, cholesterol, regulated nervous systems, and increased mental capacity, just to name a few. And these are just the immediate effects!  

The next step on our hike was to answer the question of these types of communities happen? Florence posits that in nearly all cases, it takes a visionary and supportive governing body. For a master planned community like Bridgeland, it helps to have industry leaders and experts like Matt Baumgartner and Tricia Brasseaux.  Matt walked the group through the thoughtful planning process of exploring the terrain of Bridgeland in the design stage to understand the topography, potentially flood prone areas, how to redesign those areas to slow the flow of water, and the best native plantings to support flood resiliency. Tricia talked us through the process of planning and designing these outdoor spaces as multipurpose amenities that were not only functional but inviting to the community for everyday use. Bridgeland boasts of miles of connectivity in walking trails, pocket parks along the way, and the beautiful Josie Lake, the boat house and the event lawn. Residents in Bridgeland have a wide variety of ways to get outdoors, have fun, and get to know their neighbors.  

To wrap up, Tricia Brasseaux treated our Rising Leaders to a tour of Bridgeland’s famed Dragonfly Park and its unique design features inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright, sustainable and resilient concepts in landscape architecture, and a dashing sense of fun!