Open Spaces Sacred Places: The Healing Power of Nature is a National Award Program of the TKF Foundation, funding and activating the realization of new OSSP Gardens and associated research programs. OSSP Gardens are created to support the physical, mental, and spiritual wellbeing of individuals living in challenging urban environments.  They are also places for conducting research as they provide tangible evidence related to the direct impacts –for individuals and communities– of encountering and experiencing nature in an urban setting.

Desired Outcomes of OSSP Projects

  • Creation of new OSSP’s in stressful urban environments where a community of users gains an opportunity for deeper human experience in nature.
  • Applied research studying OSSP impacts and efficacy related to improved human health and well-being.
  • Empirical findings collectively enhancing theoretical understandings of the value of nearby urban nature in human health and well-being, and supporting evidence-based urban planning and community design.
  • Development of best practices and methods for cross-disciplinary collaboration in developing, implementing, and studying creative nature-based approaches in today’s cities.
  • Establishment of a national network of OSSP garden demonstration and study sites.

A 2012 OSSP Planning Grant awarded to Utica’s Mohawk Valley Resource Center is the first step in the unfolding process of conceiving and ultimately realizing Utica’s One World Garden. Early in 2012 the One World Garden Interdisciplinary Design and Research Planning Team set to work to develop the garden’s design as well as a long range research plan aimed at studying and evaluating the garden’s impact, once built, on both its users and urban context. In the pages that follow, the concept for Utica’s One World Garden comes to life in a series of illustrative design drawings. These drawings along with a comprehensive research proposal are being used to seek support and move the One World Garden toward its full realization.


Many Cultures, One Community

In the past 30 years, Utica has been host to more than 13,000 refugees.  This phenomenon has been the subject of numerous national and international news articles and has provided Oneida County with the fourth highest concentration of refugees in the U.S. and the City of Utica with a refugee population of nearly 12%.  Refugees have been resettled to the region by The Mohawk Valley Resource Center for Refugees (MVRCR), one of the largest resettlement agencies in the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services network. Since its inception in 1979, the Center has assisted refugees from more than 31 countries. The Center promotes the well-being of culturally diverse individuals and families within Utica by welcoming new neighbors, refugees and immigrants, and by providing community-centered activities designed to create opportunity and facilitate understanding.

Utica’s Population

US Census 2010: 62,235

Average refugee resettlement per year:  525

Number of refugee home countries: 31

1 in 6 people living in Utica are refugees


Utica’s One World Garden will be a place of remembering and celebrating unity and the coming together of people from diverse cultures to settle and shape their chosen homeplace: the City of Utica. It will be a place to acknowledge the rich social and cultural identity that defines Utica, as refugees seek new lives by resettling there. Utica’s One World Garden will offer all Uticans—especially those from the refugee and immigrant community—a place to seek retreat, friendship and community. This green oasis will provide space for reflecting, learning, and acknowledging differences, hardships and hopes. The garden will celebrate resilience and transformation. It will be a place to visit in solitude, in the company of others, or to gather in commemoration of United Nations Day, UN Refugee Day, or religious, seasonal or cultural events. One World Garden hopes to impact those who experience it—for a brief moment or a lifetime. With the stories it tells and harbors, One World Garden seeks to become a meaningful place representing and supporting Utica’s diversity and its promise of renewal by those who continue to call it their home.

Categories: designhistory