Universal park design toolkit

The Universal Park Design Series is a toolkit which has sections on entries, playgrounds, trails and green spaces. The interior spaces section deals with buildings and facilities such as rest rooms and kiosks. It covers basic access features but goes into more detail to provide a universal design approach.

The toolkit is a step-by-step guide for landscape professionals. The Easter Lake Park project in Des Moines was used to inform the tool.

A paved pathway runs along the edge of Easter Lake Park. People are sitting on the grass and on seating under the shelter. Universal park design.

The authors of the tool stress that the guidance does not represent all possible solutions. In other words, designers are encouraged to be creative within the framework of universal design thinking.

The authors crosswalked, or linked, the 7 principles of universal design to the 8 goals of universal design. Then they merged them to form the 5 categories for outdoor recreation areas as shown in the chart below. These 5 categories form the framework for design. The categories are physiological and motor capabilities, processing skills, health and safety, and contextual factors. The fifth category is effort towards sustainability.

A chart showing how the 7 principles of universal design relate to the 8 goals of universal design. Some concepts are merged to form 5 categories for universal outdoor recreation areas.

This chart is a good example of how the principles and goals can be re-worked to suit the context of the project rather than being used as a checklist. Chart is courtesy ShiveHattery.

The Interior Spaces tool is one part of the Universal Park Design Series. Other tools are, programming, parking & entry, playgrounds, trails, beaches and water activities.

From the introduction

This tool is not a one-size-fits-all. Each project should incorporate the practice of co-design, engaging active participation from diverse end-users and subject matter experts. This is to ensure that project anomalies or other factors do not adversely affect the design intent.

Universal design considerations are provided throughout the tool and they provide a summary of main considerations and technical criteria. They should not be regarded as an exhaustive list.

Members of a co-design team may come up with other ways to meet a diversity of users. New materials and technologies that emerge may open up further possibilities for accommodating the diversity of the population.

Each tool is organized into 5 Categories which were selected based on project initiatives and themes collected from academic, user, and practical research.

Variation exists in the categories of interior space design due to differences in operations, organizational goals between different clients and designers, and user perspectives. The foundation of the tool are the priorities for your project, the universal design categories, user input, and key questions to ask yourself as clients and designers.

Parking and entry is another section of the tool.

A related PhD thesis by Courtney Brown is based on the Easter Lake Park project. The title is, Design What Matters, Better: A Case Study of Universal and Inclusive Design Implementation Throughout the Design Process Toward Empowerment. This study challenges entrenched power dynamics within conventional design processes, which perpetuate non-inclusive environments, by empowering marginalized communities through their engagement in the design process.

Stress reduction in neighbourhood parks

Neighbourhood parks provide an opportunity for people to de-stress. But they must be human-centric.

Cognitive restoration design for stress mitigation in neighbourhood parks. looks at landscape design to enhance cognitive well-being.

A pathway with an archway covered in creeping plants with flowers.

Institutional access is required for a free read. Or ask for a copy from ResearchGate.

From the abstract

Many researchers have discovered the healing powers of landscape to human health and well-being, yet its association with psychological and cognitive aspects is still less explored.

This study examines the potential of landscape attributes focusing on neighbourhood parks as a cognitive restorative stimulus for stress mitigation. The factors that lead to stress in the urban community using an expert interview approach and how the landscape design attributes can stimulate cognitive function to reduce stress.

The findings indicated that design for psychological needs must be human-centric. That’s because humans are born with sense, intuition, and preference. Specifically, to stimulate the cognitive part, it is vital to provide landscape design attributes that motivate people to go to the park. Therefore, the design must provide users with comfort, safety and security, social opportunities, and a pleasurable experience.

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