The project is an extension of Semenov’s focus on “ecoempathy,” which seeks ways to redesign the built environment to create a more empathetic relationship between humans and nature. In 2017, he and Leiva founded The Ecoempathy Project
, a blog where they discuss what ecoempathy means and how the idea is being implemented across the world.
“My ambition is to tie the environment to our emotion,” he said. “What tools can we use to encourage a deeper emotional and physiological connection to nature?”
Semenov said the project has also deepened his ties to the New Haven community. Not wanting to “drop something down like a UFO,” he said he regularly attended neighborhood meetings, spoke with local official and activists, and encouraged local volunteers to pitch in. Those efforts, he said, have added to the early success of the parklet, which is regularly filled with patrons of local eateries and nearby professionals.
The project also involved numerous members of the Yale community. Kent Bloomer, a professor at the School of Architecture, provided space in his design studio to construct the wooden furniture. Caroline Scanlan
’18 M.F. and Laura Ostrowsky
’19 M.F. of the student interest group Environmental Educators helped with the signage. Colleen Murphy-Dunning
, program director of the F&ES-based Urban Resource Initiative, helped Semenov and Leiva complete grant applications, while the Class of 1980 Fund provided financial support.
The parklet will remain in place until November, Semenov said, and is expected to find a new home in the city in the spring.