Archive for the ‘Built Works’ Category

Labyrinths for Healthcare: Approach with Caution

Friday, May 29th, 2015
Labyrinth at St. Joseph Memorial Hospital. Photo by Clare Cooper Marcus

St. Joseph Memorial Hospital, Santa Rosa, CA. This labyrinth is appropriate for a healthcare setting since the walking route is relatively short (7-circuit); there are no overlooking windows, and vegetative screening ensures privacy; it is shaded; and a simple explanatory sign explains its use. Photo by Clare Cooper Marcus

This post might invite more invective or controversy than usual (which is usually none, so we’ll see), but it’s something important to discuss: Labyrinths are not always appropriate for healthcare gardens. When they are used, they need to be sited and designed to best benefit garden users. Clare Cooper Marcus and I discuss this issue in our book Therapeutic Landscapes: An Evidence-Based Approach to Designing Healing Gardens and Restorative Outdoor Spaces and some of the text below is excerpted from Chapter 6 (p. 78).

Please understand: I have nothing against labyrinths per se. In fact, in the right place and context, I think they are wonderful and I very much enjoy walking them. The TLN has a page on labyrinths. In our chapter on Gardens for Veterans and Active Duty Personnel, we discuss how labyrinths are used in the therapeutic process (p. 210-211).

First, what is a labyrinth?
The classical labyrinth consists of a continuous path that winds in circles into a center and out again. This basic form dates from antiquity and is intended for contemplative walking. A labyrinth is sometimes erroneously referred to as a maze, which consists of a complex system of pathways between tall hedges, with the purpose of getting people lost. The aim of a maze is playful diversion, whereas the aim of the labyrinth was, and is, to offer the user a walking path of quiet reflection. See this earlier TLN Blog post for more on the distinction between labyrinths and mazes.

Metropolitan State University Library’s Labyrinth Garden.

Metropolitan State University Library’s Labyrinth Garden

The labyrinth trend
L
abyrinths have become increasingly popular in healthcare settings (hospitals, outpatient clinics, hospices, elder care facilities, etc.). Designers often include them in their plans, sometimes encouraged by the client or the funding donor.

I’m not sure what led to this trend, but here are some guesses:

1. Labyrinths are immediately recognizable as contemplative spaces that encourage silent walking and meditation. Like “Zen gardens,” they symbolize peace and relaxation.

2. They are usually easy to install and, unlike planting beds, require very little maintenance. However, most labyrinths are paved and according to many research studies, people prefer less paving and more plants in healing gardens. So, hmmmmm….

Here is why labyrinths are often not the right choice for healthcare gardens:

1. They take up a lot of space. Space that could be used for plants or a covered gathering area or a more flexible activity space. Because people view labyrinths as somewhat sacred, they are reluctant to walk across them to get from Point A to Point B. Unless the garden is quite large, a labyrinth is probably not the best use of space.

2. Labyrinths are usually not sheltered (by trees or another shade structure). People in hospitals – especially patients – are extremely vulnerable to sun and glare.

3. They take a long time to walk, which may not be good or even possible for some patients. See guidelines, below.

4. They are usually not wheelchair accessible. So people who have limited mobility (anyone in a wheelchair, scooter, walker, or even with a large stroller) can’t use them. Which, especially in a hospital environment, is rather sad.

Labyrinth at Burford Priory, courtesy of St. James's Piccadilly

Labyrinth at Burford Priory, courtesy of St. James’s Piccadilly

Design guidelines
If you do plan to include a labyrinth in a healthcare garden, consider the following design guidelines from Therapeutic Landscapes:

1. The classical labyrinth consists of 11, 7, or 5 concentric circles. The path of the 11-circuit labyrinth is 860 feet long and thus should not be considered for a healthcare garden. Walking that far would likely tax the energy of patients or the time of visitors or staff. The 7- or 5-circuit labyrinth is more appropriate, both in terms of the length of the path and in terms of the space it claims.

2. People walking a labyrinth are in a contemplative, introspective mood and do not want to be stared at. Site the labyrinth in a secluded location out of sight of other garden users and nearby windows.

3. Since some people view the process of walking a labyrinth to be a spiritual experience, site it where others will not be forced to walk across to get from one destination to another.

4. Since many people may be unfamiliar with the purpose of a labyrinth, provide information nearby indicating how to walk the path.

5. Consider a “finger labyrinth” – they take up far less room and can still provide people with a meditative practice.

Finger labyrinth at the American Psychological Association. Photo by Naomi Sachs

Finger labyrinth at the American Psychological Association. Photo by Naomi Sachs

I’d love to hear your comments, and would also love to hear about examples of labyrinths in healthcare gardens that are really appropriate for the place and the people.

Some of the text for this post was excerpted with permission from the publisher, Wiley, from Therapeutic Landscapes: An Evidence-Based Approach to Designing Healing Gardens and Restorative Outdoor Spaces by Clare Cooper Marcus and Naomi A. Sachs. Copyright 2014.

 

Healing garden for a veteran wins national award

Friday, July 25th, 2014
Harvest Home -  Julie Melear

The Wounded Warrior home, built for the Solar Decathalon, with its award-winning landscape design

George Washington University graduate students Julie Melear, Janet Conroy, and Mary Sper’s landscape design for HARVEST HOME, a Wounded Warrior home built for a veteran, has won the Gold Award in outdoor design from the Association for Professional Landscape Design (APLD). The house was designed and built by college students competing in the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon, which challenges collegiate teams to design solar powered houses that are cost effective, energy efficient, and attractive.

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The first therapeutic garden in Romania!

Thursday, July 10th, 2014

Planting in Romania healing garden

Landscape engineer Nicsanu Marcela recently posted a photo on our TLN Facebook page with an image of raised flower beds and this caption: “First therapeutic garden in Romania!” That was pretty exciting. I emailed her to ask whether she’d like to do a guest blog post, and she agreed. Here is her post:

The first therapeutic garden in Romania opened its doors in June 2014, at Mocrea Psychiatric Hospital in Arad County. This first garden opened the way for horticultural therapy, a healing method used in almost some psychiatric hospitals in Western Europe and the USA.

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The Enabling Garden at Bryn Mawr Rehab Hospital

Sunday, March 9th, 2014
Bryn Mawr Rehab Hospital

A lily pond and lush plantings make this garden an excellent place for rehab work.

Horticultural Therapy is, in a nutshell, the use of plants, gardens, and other aspects of nature to improve people’s social, spiritual, physical, and emotional well-being. Check out the HT page on the TLN website, and the organizations American Horticultural Therapy Association and the Horticultural Therapy Institute for more information. The new book, Therapeutic Landscapes: An Evidence-Based Approach to Designing Healing Gardens and Restorative Outdoor Spaces also has a great chapter on HT, written by the inimitable Teresia Hazen at Legacy Health in Portland, OR.

Bryn Mawr Rehab Hospital

A horticultural therapist works with a client

The HT program at Bryn Mawr Rehab Hospital is well-established and respected in the field. Thanks to Pam Young, the Horticultural Therapist there, for this description of their program, and for the accompanying photos.

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Boston Children’s Hospital’s Prouty Garden under threat of demolition. Guest post by Clare Cooper Marcus

Tuesday, September 17th, 2013
Boston Children's Hospital Prouty Garden

The Prouty Garden at Boston Children’s Hospital has served as a tranquil green urban oasis since 1956

The Prouty Garden at Boston Children’s Hospital has, for generations of patients, family members, and staff, served as a much-loved retreat from the clinical atmosphere inside. The garden was created in 1956, sponsored by Mrs. Olive Prouty whose two children had died in the hospital. Now it is under threat of demolition as the hospital looks for space to expand on its very urban site.

A petition to save the garden has already garnered over 6,500 signatures, but they need more! Please sign and help spread the word. Newspaper articles and radio reports (see, for example, WBUR and The Boston Globe) have taken up the story to plead for the retention of this irreplaceable green oasis.

A Scientific American article last year called the Prouty Garden “one of the most successful hospital gardens in the country.” Though though constructed long before our research-based knowledge of the critical issues in hospital garden design – it is almost perfect as a restorative space in healthcare. (more…)