Our Creation Story...
Motz Studios is a Minneapolis-based wellness provider of evidence-based therapeutic forest immersion walks. The walks are based on the Japanese tradition of Shinrin Yoku, or 'forest bathing', which emphasizes the healing power of nature.
David Motzenbecker, Founder and Principal, is an ANFT-Certified Forest Therapy Guide, Trail Certification Consultant, and licensed Landscape Architect with nearly 20 years of design experience.
We come to nature for spiritual, mental, and physical nourishment at the pivotal times in our lives. Yet we also need ongoing nourishment that strengthens our daily resolve. David Motzenbecker brings his design expertise in landscape architecture to his guide practice, demonstrating how nature has been a place of respite and transformation throughout history, and how we might use the lessons we glean from the forest in our everyday lives.
Motz Studios also draws on David’s international expertise in Japan and the U.K. Fellowships in both cultures deepened his study of design, history, and spirituality, and their connection to nature. The UK’s tradition of “thin space”, a spiritually powerful place where the veil between heaven and earth dissipates, resonates in landscapes like Stonehenge, and across the breadth of Scotland. Japan influenced David's philosophy with its focus on Shinto, the sacred essence that manifests in multiple forms: rocks, trees, rivers, animals, places. Influential facets of simplicity/complexity are woven throughout Zen Buddhism, as are those of Wabi-Sabi (finding beauty in the transience and imperfection of the world). Biophilic design is strong in the spiritual traditions of Japan, with the extensive use of wood and stone in temples and shrines. It is also found in their gardens, which are designed with deep intention, incorporating biophilic design patterns such as mystery, dappled light, and prospect/refuge. Japan is also the home of Shinrin Yoku, or Forest Bathing, a healing practice that involves slow, meditative, immersive, and observational walks in a forest or nature.
Motzenbecker is an expert campus and urban master planner. His awards include the H.W.S. Cleveland Award for Leadership Potential (given to emerging leaders in landscape architecture), and the Lob Pine Award (given for exemplary leadership and mentorship for the landscape architecture community over an extended period), as well as many project-specific awards.
As President of the Minneapolis Planning Commission (appointed for an eight-year term by Mayor R.T. Rybak), Motzenbecker honed his philosophy on public engagement towards a model that focused on collaborative design. He created new ideas in engagement that were on the vanguard, seeing firsthand the power of engaged communities.
All these elements have coalesced over the course of David's practice shaping him as a designer, and now influencing the ethos of Motz Studios.
About the Team
David Motzenbecker is a Certified Forest Therapy Guide and a licensed Landscape Architect with 19 years of experience across varying project types. He is the Founding Principal of Motz Studios LLC. He holds a terminal MLA (Masters in Landscape Architecture) from the University of Minnesota’s College of Design, and is Certified through the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy Guides (ANFT). His practice focuses on reconnecting humanity and nature mentally, physically, and spiritually for the benefit of both.
David Motzenbecker, ASLA, PLA, ANFT
Press & Articles
The Solitude Series
Jennifer Stitt & The Garrison Institute
In 1852, Herman Melville described the dark depravity of silence. “All
profound things, and emotions of things are preceded and attained by
Silence,” Melville wrote. Read on to discover the power of solitude for yourself.
Nature-based therapy is an antidote to climate fatalism
The Powers of Immersion and Mindfulness: Forest Bathing
Those of us who are in environmental fields or simply have an affinity for backyard gardening are familiar with the benefits of being surrounded by nature. Now there is a great amount of research on the mental and physical benefits of spending intentional, mindful time outdoors, especially in forests.
Far from being 'woo woo,' research shows that forest bathing is calming and stress-reducing
The mental health benefits of ‘forest bathing’
Three hours in the woods: Young adulthood is a time of challenges, but for the group of Minneapolis Community and Technical College students that accompanied counselor Jamal Adam on a guided forest therapy walk earlier this spring, the idea of 180 phone-free minutes with nothing but nature for distraction felt hard to fathom.