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Eastern Shore Land Conservancy is committed to preserving and sustaining the vibrant communities of the Eastern Shore and the lands and waters that connect them.

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Cities That Serve Our Unconscious Brains

The following is a response by ESLC’s Towns Program Manager, Owen Bailey, to an episode of The Strong Towns Podcast and subsequent article on the Strong Towns website by Chuck Marohn and Ann Sussman.

We all love parks and open spaces where we can enjoy being out side and release our stress. Not only is it important for our towns and communities to have these public spaces for residents and visitors to enjoy, but it is viable for our health and happiness. While there are successful public places there are also unsuccessful public places. The difference between the 2 is very nuance, but over all successful places take into account human nature and how our brains are programmed. This is not only important when it comes to designing parks but also pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure. It’s not like building a road that needs to be able to handle a certain number of cars per day. These places for people need to make us feel safe and comfortable. Otherwise people won’t use it, or it won’t add to our quality of life.

Consider the following article from Daniel Herriges at Strong Towns where we writes about the nature of human interaction in public places.

“When you visit a place for the first time, odds are you have an immediate reaction to it that’s more emotional than intellectual. It’s beautiful or soothing or awe-inspiring or, conversely, perhaps boring or intimidating or disorienting. Much of this is influenced by our cultural norms and expectations. But there are also some truths rooted in basic, innate human psychology—and these truths have found their way into the living traditions of urban design as a sort of “spooky wisdom” that far predates modern architecture or urban planning.
“One of these truths is that humans exhibit the biological principle of thigmotaxis: a preference for hugging the edges of a space instead of lingering out in the exposed center.”

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