Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Healthcare Garden Design

I recently completed the Healthcare Garden Design course at the Chicago Botanic Garden and now have professional certification in Healthcare Garden Design. It was a week-long intensive at the Chicago Botanic Garden, just north of Chicago. It's been nearly two months since the course, and I am still assimilating all the information and lessons learned. I imagine that I am going to be doing so for a long time. Everyday, we had fantastic lectures from experts in the field such as; Claire Cooper Marcus, Marni Barnes, Joanne Westphal and Nilda Cosco, as well as site visits to healing and therapeutic gardens in the Chicago Area.

Taking the course inspired me to research healing spaces and design from antiquity to today and then ask questions about how and why these forms evolved into what they are typically now ( I'll share some of my ideas about that in a future blog post...). I also was amazed - though not surprised by some of the research around the power of green spaces to heal and help produce positive health outcomes in hospital, outpatient and rehab facilities. According to Ulrich:

Laboratory and clinical investigations have found that viewing nature settings can produce significant restoration within less than five minutes as indicated by:
blood pressure
heart activity
muscle tension
brain electrical activity
(Ulrich, 1981; Ulrich et al., 1991)

The understanding gleaned from the combination of the research and the site visits was helpful to apply and test when our group was charged with creating a garden in an assisted living facility. Our group focused on condensing the different ecosystems around the facility into representative landscape areas on the site, to include a wetland that could double as stormwater infrastructure, a prairie, an Oak/ Hickory woodland and a meandering stream. The idea was to give residents a chance to experience their macro surroundings in a micro setting, and to provide places for gathering and discovery.

While at the Chicago Botanic Garden, the classroom was steps away from the Enabling Garden, a beautiful and well designed space. I took many notes there and admired the thoughtful ways they brought gardening to everyone. While the course is specific and geared towards generating an expertise in healing and therapeutic gardens, the design principles apply anywhere...One should strive to create spaces that encourage reflection, discovery, social interaction, sense of accomplishment and feeling of safety.

Enabling Garden Entrance Map

Enabling Garden Raised Beds

Enabling Garden Bird Feeder

Enabling Garden Toolshed
Group Project Final Design


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