There is no denying the role nature plays in the patient experience and rehabilitation process. In the past few decades “Healing Gardens,” have become widely incorporated into the design of healthcare facilities as an area where patients can be fully immersed in nature under the watchful eyes of their care team, and reap the benefits. Some of the best designs are the result of a collaborative approach between landscape architects, hospital staff, and therapists.
Blending the restorative benefits of nature with the needs and rehabilitation requirements of specific patient groups takes careful planning in order to meet the (sometimes conflicting) requirements. From different walking surfaces for those recovering from a stroke, to play areas for children and siblings, to semi-private spots for solace and meditation, there are a number of ways these gardens can help promote well-being of patients, staff and visitors.
Outdoor spaces are designed for the specific needs of patients dealing with mental or psychological challenges. One study demonstrated that Alzheimer participants who spend five to ten minutes of unstructured time in the garden each day during the summer show improvement on a number of parameters.
Healing Garden Characteristics
Based on research the following design criteria can help strengthen the healing nature of a healthcare facility garden.
Lush landscapes of trees, flowers, and grasses at varying heights should comprise approximately 70 per cent of the area, and paved walkways and courtyards approximately 30 per cent.
Small seating areas with chairs that can be moved help foster socialization among patients, family and staff.
Appeal to all senses
Gardens where patients can touch, listen, see and smell are ideal. Avoid strongly scented plants, which may be disagreeable to some patients.
Take care with walkways
Wide pathways made of a glare-reducing material are ideal for patients with low eyesight, compromised ability or those who need assistance. Prevent trips or stopping a wheelchair by paving seams narrower than one-eighth of an inch.
Ease of accessibility
Install gardens close to the main facility and make them easy to get to through multiple entrances. This can help encourage their use and make them accessible to patients of every age or ability.
Providence Care Hospital
The new Providence Care Hospital in Kingston, Ontario is a recent example of how we incorporated views and access to nature in a healthcare facility. Located in close proximity to Lake Ontario, the building takes full advantage of its waterfront views. Expanding existing trails into the facility’s boundaries provides an amenity to patients and back to the community.
The design supports patient healing by incorporating light and the site’s natural beauty into the facility. Inpatient units are provided optimal views of the surrounding natural landscape by placing them towards the lake.
Highly articulated units provide ample opportunity to breakdown the scale of the building while introducing outdoor views. Patient rooms and social spaces have direct views of the surrounding landscape, often across large rooftop courtyards incorporated into each inpatient unit.
Naturally-lit, triple-height spaces and exterior courtyards are incorporated into the framework of the building ensure an abundance of natural light penetration. While walking around the building one is always conscious of the views to the outdoors and presence of daylight.
Click here to learn more about nature’s role within institutional architecture.
Editor’s note: this blog was originally published in March 2014.