Healthcare design is one of the many sectors that involve very particular and thoughtful landscape design by landscape architects. Landscape architects play a crucial role in designing spaces that promote well-being, healing, and recovery. By understanding the therapeutic benefits of nature and incorporating them into their plans and designs, landscape architects can create spaces that not only look beautiful but also have a positive, practical impact on the physical and mental well-being and recovery of those experiencing medical treatment and in the healing process. The communities that we design should be inspired by their effect on the health and well-being of residents and visitors. Creating spaces that provide health benefits can be achieved by considering the following:
- Creating opportunities for socialization and community building is a foundational aspect of design that promotes healing and recovery. By incorporating spaces that encourage people to gather, such as community gardens, open spaces, or gathering areas with seating, socialization is encouraged, reducing the stress of isolation. These spaces not only provide opportunities for social interaction but also give people a connection to their community and a sense of belonging.
- Incorporating natural elements and features into designs, such as trees, plants, and water features creates a sense of tranquility and promotes restoration. It’s no secret that people who spend more time outdoors tend to be happier. Gregory Bratman, Ph.D., an assistant professor at the University of Washington, and colleagues published scientific evidence that experiences with nature are connected to increased happiness and well-being, positive social interactions, reduced mental illness, and an overall sense of meaning and purpose in life (Science Advances, Vol. 5, No. 7, 2019).
- Selecting specific plant material can help boost mood and create a sensitive surrounding environment essential for healing. Plants with a soft texture, pleasing colors, and light, pleasant scents are ideal selections for healing gardens.
- Promoting spaces that encourage and make it convenient for physical activity, exercise, and rehabilitation provides people with opportunities to explore their communities and connect with nature. Planned design elements that can achieve this include walking and bike paths, sports fields, open greenspace, playgrounds, and fitness equipment.
- Accessibility and ADA features are key considerations when landscape architects design spaces that promote healing and recovery. By designing spaces that are accessible to all, regardless of physical ability, landscape architects can ensure that everyone has the opportunity to experience the therapeutic benefits of the community. This can be achieved by paying attention to natural features and designing wheelchair-friendly spaces, incorporating signage and wayfinding with braille and audio descriptions, and providing accessible amenities such as picnic areas and diverse-ability play features. Additionally, distance from parking to the front door and points-of-interest considerations must be made to ensure that individuals that are in treatment are not challenged by additional physical exertion or stress.
As landscape architects, we can promote communities of healing by understanding the healing process and designing with empathy. By creating spaces that encourage socialization, enhance community, incorporate the therapeutic benefits of nature, promote physical activity and therapy, and implement accessibility for all, landscape architects can design experiences that create positive impacts on the physical and mental well-being of people when they need it most.