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Connecting to Nature

Improve the experience of working New Yorkers in connecting with nature

Role: Designer  (Research, prototype, testing)

Team: Nishita Chheda, Esther Jing, Jacqueline Bao, Yiran Guo

Year: 2019 (4 months)

The objective of this project was to understand how New Yorkers are currently interacting with nature in their daily lives and see how we might improve that experience. 

Future Vision: We imagine a world where one can connect

with nature while living and working in the city.


Context and Process

  • New York City is the 6th most stressed-out city in the United States. 

  • NYC is often perceived as only being a 'concrete jungle'. However, it is also home to a plethora of flora and fauna.​

  • A growing body of research points to the beneficial effects that exposure to the natural world has on health and healing.

Our process included observational studies and intercepts, participatory research, and diary studies. Each stage was followed by insight synthesis, debrief, and reflection. We then began early stages of protoyping. 

Ethnographic Research- Observations and Intercepts (Brief conversations)

We began our project by observing people in nature and asking some exploratory questions. We each observed people at a different park and stopped a few people to ask them questions and I observed people at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden. WE all came together as a group from our respective observation posts and synthesized the following:

  • People have the desire to connect with nature but don't always make the effort

  • NYC needs better integration of nature into it's streets and city planning

  • Most New Yorkers desire to connect with nature even in small ways

  • Nature is often the backdrop to other activities such as exercising or social gatherings

Participatory Design Research

In order to better understand how people were interacting with nature and why people do not experience nature as much as they would like to we went to Washington square park to engage people in an activity. We asked people to write on post it notes how they currently connect to nature, how they would like to connect with nature more, and what gets in the way of that. Then we asked people to place these sticky notes on a matrix based on accessibility of the activity and value it brings to their life Ex: Hiking is valuable to me and makes me feel calm but it takes an hour to get there and I have no car so it would be low on accessibility but high on value.

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