An award-winning landscape design and horticulture professor again puts Parkland College in the national spotlight for urban landscape architecture.
A team led by Parkland Associate Professor Kaizad Irani was recently awarded a $42,200, six-month planning grant from the nonprofit TKF Foundation to design publicly accessible urban green spaces for its "Open Spaces Sacred Places" program. The prestigious competition awarded $500,000 in planning grants to only 11 cross-disciplinary teams nationwide.
The overall goal of Open Spaces Sacred Places is to generate more complete knowledge about how nature-based sacred spaces benefit and impact city dwellers. One of the teams TKF selected was the Parkland-led Waukegan Area Sacred Spaces Project (WASS); WASS team members also include First Baptist Church of Waukegan, Lake County Forest Preserves, Chicago Wilderness, and the Landscape and Human Health Laboratory at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The other 10 projects winning TKF planning grants were involved with such organizations as Walter Reed Medical Center, Harvard University, Cornell University, USDA Forest Service, Brooklyn Greenway Initiative, Columbia University, The Horticultural Society of New York, University of Michigan, University of Washington, and The Greening of Detroit.
Irani's team plans to design a healing garden for the Greenbelt Forest Preserve in Waukegan and connect it to an ambassador Open Spaces Sacred Places site four miles away at the First Baptist Church of Waukegan. Later this summer his team will again compete for TKF funding, to implement the plans it develops on the two sacred spaces and conduct research on the impact of these spaces. The UIUC's Landscape and Human Health Lab, dedicated to studying the connection between greenery and human health, will conduct the research.
No stranger to national success in competitive landscape design, Professor Irani's landscape artistry has been selected to grace such sites as St. Jude Children's Hospital, New York City's Lower Manhattan entrance near Ground Zero, and a healing labyrinth garden at Crystal Lake Park in Urbana. As director of Parkland's Horticulture/Landscape Design program, Irani said Parkland students will benefit from this grant through exposure to the design process in the classroom, as he works with the WASS project team and relays this process to his students. Future students will also benefit from this project, since Irani will be able to draw from this design process as another real-world example.
The private nonprofit TKF Foundation funds publicly accessible urban green spaces. It partners with organizations to create "Open Spaces Sacred Places" that increase a sense of community and contribute to a deepening of human connections. These sacred places reawaken and reaffirm the powerful connection between nature, spirit, and human well-being. Irani's philosophy for these designs is that "sacred places are those that have an inherent power--although subtle as it may be--to evoke introspection, promoting physical and emotional well-being that will provide respite from our day-to-day rigors."