Reasons Behind My Project
The city I live in, Oakland California, has many large open spaces, including Joaquin Miller Park. This park has trails that wind through redwoods, oak forests, and meadows. However, I’ve noticed that the area is underutilised by Oakland residents. And like many urban areas, Oakland’s open spaces are used disproportionately by socioeconomically advantaged groups (Shanahana). The park is situated near wealthier neighborhoods, with poor accessibility to transportation and information. Time in nature is an important part of mental health and wellbeing, so I think that it’s important that every Oakland resident has access to this space (Shanahana). I decided to design a nature center that could promote the park and provide information, giving better access to all Oaklanders.
My Design Process
I began by considering the building’s purpose, users, and needs. I thought about how I needed to create a building that would attract people of all age groups, interests, and level of knowledge about the park. I also realized that in order to attract people to the building, I would need to create something aesthetically pleasing and welcome-feeling. The building would need to be functional as well as attractive.
I then researched several different nature centers and similar structures all around the globe. I was particularly inspired by the Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park Nature Center by DesignGroup in Galloway, Ohio. It had a large museum-like room to educate visitors, and a panoramic window that focused the visitor’s attention on the nature around them. You can see this building here: https://www.archdaily.com/541409/battelle-darby-creek-metro-park-nature-center-designgroup?ad_source=search&ad_medium=search_result_all.
There is a current nature center in Joaquin Miller Park, but it is a small, run-down building that’s almost never open. However, the building is located next to a major road with direct access to the park and great views of the Bay Area. I visited the location and decided that it would be the best place to put the new center.
I then began sketching ideas for the building. I looked at the project from different angles and used feedback from friends and peers to improve the design.
Finally, I used SketchUp, an online architecture software, to create 3D models of the designs.
I focused particularly on the entry room, because it most directly related to the building’s goal of accessibility to information .
I explain my design decisions in greater detail in this video: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1rfDJyREeMDqmQ1lbglc82NGXy1p9B4pB/view?usp=sharing
Or you can see my full project in this doc: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1F-7Ab5_yfDa-W_GykExLYI3o3-6LCv25f8CrMNEExwo/edit?usp=sharing
For Now: Takeaways
Spending time in nature is an important part of mental health (“How Nature Benefits Mental Health”). It is also a great way to get exercise, understand the importance of conservation, and learn about a place’s history. A nature center could help connect this incredible resource to many Oakland residents, especially those who are socioeconomically disadvantaged and often lack access to and information about the parks. The center could be a hub for school field trips, family outings, or visits with friends, providing all Oaklanders with necessary time in nature. While simply a nature center could not solve many of the city’s inequalities, I hope that it could help decrease access to nature based disparities between different groups of Oakland residents.
Thank you for reading!
“How Nature Benefits Mental Health.” Mind.org, 2018, www.mind.org.uk/information-support/tips-for-everyday-living/nature-and-mental-health/how-nature-benefits-mental-health/.
Shanahana, D.F., et al. “Socio-Economic Inequalities in Access to Nature on Public and Private Lands: A Case Study from Brisbane, Australia.” Fuller Lab, 2014, www.fullerlab.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/Shanahan-et-al-2014.pdf.