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Cunningham Learning Series: Nature Moves Indoors

Undisputedly the best airport in the world, Singapore Changi Airport is celebrating the opening of its much-anticipated Jewel Changi expansion this month.  With no terminals or gates, the addition serves as an experience enhancement for airport passengers and personnel.  The focal point of the $1.25 billion architectural feat is Forest Valley, a lush four-story conservatory boasting the world’s tallest indoor waterfall.  Bringing plants inside?  Why is nature important?  We asked our landscape architects to weigh in on the topic.

Left caption above: Existing exterior gardens at Singapore Changi Airport

Right caption above: The airport’s new 4-story conservatory features the world’s tallest indoor waterfall

We all know that spending time in nature is good for us.  Recent scientific findings are helping us better understand what it takes to reap these benefits, while modern architecture is finding ways to realistically fit nature into our busy, urban lives.

A recent study in the peer-reviewed journal Frontiers in Psychology quantified how much time spent in nature it takes to reap stress-reducing benefits. The data indicates that levels of the stress hormone cortisol reduced significantly after just 20 minutes spent sitting or walking in a natural environment.  This research gives doctors a better-defined metric, allowing them to prescribe nature to patients with a more concrete understanding of the results that can be expected.

While a “nature prescription” may sound like an easy treatment, access to nature often times is a challenge.  Known as a “City in a Garden,” Singapore tackled those challenges head-on to become a world leader in fostering urban access to nature.  Its airport doesn’t disappoint.  A massive outdoor arboretum and sunflower garden greeting travelers was only the beginning.  Now its Jewel Changi addition takes access to nature to new heights with a never-before-created indoor wonderland.    

On a scientific level, we may not yet know if a stroll through an indoor garden impacts the brain the same way that a stroll through the woods does.  However, it’s hard to imagine not feeling a little bit happier and less stressed after a walk through four stories of plants.   

Supporting our mission to improve the quality of the communities we serve, Cunningham landscape architects understand the value of bringing nature into our daily lives.  We prioritize time spent in natural settings to stay refreshed and inspired, and we incorporate a wide variety of plants into our designs to create a natural feel, in even the most urban environments.