The idea that gardens promote health is an intuitive one. They provide visitors a meditative space within a designed environment. While hospital design has recently been implementing research findings to promote restful interior environments, peace gardens, memorial gardens, and medicinal gardens have always been ancient traditions of landscape design.
The National AIDS Memorial Grove in San Francisco and the Hiroshima Peace Park in Japan are excellent examples of memorial gardens. Garden space was assumed in the design competitions for the 9/11 memorial and the Oklahoma City National Memorial. We need such places to grieve and understand events as these.
Our general health and recuperation from injury also responds to good outdoor design.
Clare Cooper Marcus, Professor Emeritus of Architecture and Landscape Architecture at UC Berkeley, wrote that
“a designer must consider both the larger societal changes and the creation of better, more supportive environments from people’s daily lives… thoughtful design takes into account existing knowledge and provides a chance for people to express themselves, be effective, and feel empowered.”
Though always a formal realm within landscape architecture, healing gardens now have data to fight for their inclusion in contemporary urban design. It is difficult to fight for funding that is often scarce, but research indicates that patients with time in gardens or with a garden view require fewer medical interventions. In 1984, Roger Ulrich reported in Science that patients recovering from surgery who had a view of trees had “shorter postoperative stays, fewer negative evaluations from nurses, and lower consumption of potent analgesics than matched patients who had a view of a brick wall.”
Designing for beautiful green space results in greater patient and staff support and one of the best examples is the Maggie’s Centres that started in the U.K.
“On 3 October 2011 Maggie’s open their eighth centre in the UK. Maggie’s Glasgow Gartnavel is one of three new Maggie’s Centres set to open before the end of the year. OMA Partners Rem Koolhaas and Ellen van Loon. Complementing the centre’s design is a landscape design consisting of internal courtyard plantings and a surrounding wooded glades area, designed by Lily Jencks, daughter of Maggie’s Founders, Maggie Keswick Jencks and Charles Jencks, in conjunction with the landscape architecture and urban design company Harrison Stevens.
“Maggie died in July 1995. The first Maggie’s Centre opened in Edinburgh in November 1996. A View from the Front Line gave her the opportunity to work out what it was that she and the many others affected by cancer needed. She was convinced that everybody would feel better as she did, if they felt able to take some active role in what was happening to them. In order not to be a ‘cancer victim’, she believed you needed help with information, that would allow you to be an informed participant in your medical treatment, help with stress reducing strategies, psychological support and the opportunity to meet up and share with other people in similar circumstances in a relaxed domestic atmosphere. Maggie Keswick Jencks was the co-founder, alongside Charles Jencks, of Maggie’s Cancer Caring Centres. Maggie was a writer, a landscape designer, a painter and a mother of two.” (Maggie’s Centre Website)
Renowned architects & firms have participated in the Maggie’s Centre including OMA, Zaha Hadid, Frank Gehry. Richard Rogers office, upon designing the London Cheswick location, said, “There is a long history linking well-designed buildings and space with healing, which was identified by my friend Maggie Keswick Jencks… Maggie’s Centres are a vital example of good design serving communities and those in need.”
Excellent design is part of the experience. A relaxing and comfortable environment for the individual with cancer as well as those loved ones also affected by the diagnosis is necessary. It was a cancer patient, landscape architect, and family member that brought together great architecture, information, and great gardens as part of the healing and hospice experience. Happily, this idea is spreading and designing effective healing communities across the globe.