Archive for the ‘Healing landscapes’ Category

“From Memory to Memorial” – Book review by Lisa Horne

Sunday, September 10th, 2017

In memory of the lives that were lost, saved, and changed forever in the attacks on September 11, 2001, here is a review of Bill Thompson’s recently published book, From Memory to Memorial: Shanksville, America, and Flight 93. Thank you, Lisa Horne, for this review.

“We Did Not Forget” – Book review by Lisa Horne of From Memory to Memorial: Shanksville, America, and Flight 93 by J. William Thompson

Bill Thompson is personally grateful for the passengers’ heroic charge that ended in Flight 93’s crash in Somerset County, Pennsylvania on September 11, 2001. He was only six blocks away from what was likely the target of Flight 93’s hijackers on that fateful day. In From Memory to Memorial, Thompson explores personal and professional questions through this narrative of the people and events in the creation of the Flight 93 National Memorial following the events of 9/11. The prologue establishes many themes: the role of temporary tributes, elusive closure for the victims’ families, the appropriate expression of a memorial, and the causes of the extended delay in building this particular memorial.

Photo courtesy of the National Park Service

The first chapter opens with vignettes of where residents of Somerset County were that day as they saw the airplane, and moves progressively through its descent to close with the two metal scrap cutters who actually witnessed the impact. Events unfold as they would have been experienced. Where is the airplane? There must be one. Where are the bodies? There are none. As the narrative progresses, we see it through the eyes of the first responders, who come to realize that the smell of burning flesh and the small pieces of scrap metal littered everywhere is all that is left. Most, but not all, of the human remains have been vaporized into the tree canopy, into the land. The text is visceral, raw, and immediate.

Most journalists miss the influence of land on culture while many designers, who understand these things, cannot express it well or communicate the emotion and nuances of these dynamics. With past experience as Editor-in-Chief of Landscape Architecture Magazine for nearly a decade, Thompson exemplifies both skillsets so that the reader can experience the interconnectedness of the landscape and the people who live on it. The book traces the history of the nearby village, Shanksville, from the late 1700s to the present day and underscores how the farmers’ value of cooperation became a bedrock of the community’s way of life. The theme runs like a ribbon through the book in the village’s efforts to provide support and comfort to the victims’ families. Within this backdrop, we understand and applaud as Wally Miller, the county coroner, tells news anchor Katy Couric that she cannot film the crash site. It is sacred ground containing the remains of the heroes of Flight 93.

Photo courtesy of the National Park Service

Alongside the minute details of the events unfolding after the crash of Flight 93, there are larger implications at play. Since there is little information and no survivors, the motive of the brave passengers is unclear. Was it self-sacrifice? Are some of the passengers heroes or are all of them heroes? What defines a hero? These questions are painful, but important for the American culture and for the expression of the memorial. Thompson takes the reader through these different considerations and sensitively presents different views. Memorials are built so that we remember what we can easily forget. What about the phenomenon of visitors leaving behind temporary, mass produced objects such as hats, teddy bears, and flags with messages marked on them? How do we preserve these? Some of these questions do not have resolution, but Thompson shares how all of it unfolded for this memorial site and also adds perspectives from Erika Doss, an American studies scholar on temporary memorials and Rhoda Schuler, a theology student who connects the behavior with the theory of an American civil religion.

The last half of the book focuses on the events around the design and construction of the memorial. Much of it was unprecedented. A summary of outcomes for places of mass tragedy by a cultural geographer Kenneth Foote identifies three outcomes: obliteration, designation, and sanctification. Places of mass murder are rarely sanctified with the exception of the site of the Oklahoma City bombing. It is not coincidental that the Oklahoma City bombing memorial and its design and construction process served as a precedent for the Flight 93 crash site. We also learn that memorials are often either heroic with overt symbolism such as the National World War II Memorial or minimalist and understated as with the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

Flight 93 National Memorial Map

It was important that the process of selecting the memorial be through a competition open to any and all although, as Thompson reminds us with an experienced perspective, only the skilled professionals had a realistic chance of winning. Thompson summarizes the differences and major themes of the five final entries and explains the jury’s selection process. We can fully understand how they came to select the entry that they did even though there was early concern about the way the design might be perceived. The final entry, of course, eventually led to a considerable controversy with its Crescent of Embrace that was compared to the symbol of an Islamic crescent. In the end, the designer adjusted the design to be a Circle of Embrace with some additional trees. Not having yet seen the memorial myself, I appreciated the site description from Thompson’s visit during the grand opening and his assessment of how effectively the design achieved its original intent.

The immersive details in the book, and the inclusion of dialogue and quotes drawn from hundreds of oral histories and interviews, create a unique and important non-fiction story. With restraint, Thompson folds in scholarly research and definitions only where they are needed to provide perspective with the greatest economy of words. It is never academic, but the depth of thought takes the story past the superficial and poses questions of importance to the profession of landscape architecture and to Americans.

Lisa Horne, ASLA, is a project leader at Studio Outside in Dallas, Texas, and incoming chair of the ASLA Professional Practice Network. She may be reached at lhorne (at) Thank you, Lisa, for this excellent book review!

Thank you to Pennsylvania State University Press for providing a review copy.

And thank you, Bill Thompson, for such a thoughtful, meaningful book.

Photo courtesy of the National Park Service

What is a Healing Garden?

Sunday, September 11th, 2016
Legacy Meridian

Healing Garden at Legacy Meridian Park Medical Cntr, designed by Brian Bainnson. Photo by Naomi Sachs

My colleague, Dak Kopec, asked me to write a piece on healing gardens for his forthcoming book,  Environmental Psychology for Design, and he has graciously given permission to share it with you here on the TLN Blog. Dak is Director of Design for Human Health at Boston Architectural College and has written many books and other publications on the role of the environment in human health. Thank you, Dak!

Griffin Healing Garden

Healing Garden at The Center for Cancer Care at Griffin Hospital. Photo by Naomi Sachs

What is a “healing garden”?

A “healing garden” is a garden or landscape designed for a specific population, place, and intended positive health outcome. The garden’s design (physical aspects) and programming (activities that take place there) are informed by research. The majority of healing gardens, also referred to as “restorative gardens” and “healthcare gardens” are in healthcare facilities including general acute care hospitals, outpatient clinics, assisted living and skilled nursing facilities, mental and behavioral health facilities, hospices, and specialty facilities such as rehabilitation, pediatric, and cancer hospitals and clinics. Garden users include patients or residents, visitors, and staff. Positive outcomes, including stress reduction, are derived through both passive and active nature connection and can take place indoors (via indoor plants, or from viewing nature through a window) and outdoors. A “rehabilitation garden,” “therapeutic garden,” or “enabling garden” is a garden where physical, occupational, horticultural, and other therapies take place. A “restorative landscape” or “landscape for health” is any landscape—wild or designed, large or small—that facilitates human health and well-being (Sachs, 2016).

TIRR Memorial Hermann

Planter with patient-painted tiles, TIRR Memorial Hermann. Photo by Naomi Sachs

Why is access to nature important?

Access to nature promotes health through reduction in stress, depression, myopia, pain, fatigue, aggression, impulsivity, and symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD); and improvement in immune function, bone strength, wound healing, cognition, concentration, emotional resilience, empathy, vitality, relaxation, mood, and satisfaction (Cooper Marcus & Sachs, 2014; Kuo, 2015). Why is nature good for us? Part of the answer can found in the theory of biophilia, “the innately emotional affiliation of human beings to other living organisms” (Kellert & Wilson, 1993, p. 31). Stephen and Rachel Kaplan’s Attention Restoration Theory (1995) is based on the concept that “positive distraction” and “soft fascination” through nature engagement lead to mental and cognitive restoration from the stress caused by “directed attention.” More recent research has identified enhanced immune functioning as a potential “central pathway” in explaining the connection between nature contact and positive health outcomes. Nature, in hospitals and elsewhere, plays a salutogenic role in both disease prevention and health promotion (Kuo, 2015).

Healing Garden at Houston Hospice.

Healing Garden at Houston Hospice. Photo by Naomi Sachs

What elements are important in healing gardens?

Safety, the perception and safety, and comfort are all essential in healthcare gardens. Good design and proper maintenance can address challenges such as climatic extremes, inclement weather, pollen, and harmful bacteria and insects. For example, a choice of sun and shade enables users to be outside throughout the day. Covered seating areas, especially at the garden entrance, allow even the frailest of users to venture out when the weather is not ideal. Gardens should be designed so that even when they are not physically accessible, they can be viewed from indoors and are a pleasure to see in all four seasons. According to Roger Ulrich’s Theory of Supportive Garden Design (1999), healing gardens should provide 1) nature engagement (plants, animals, water, fresh air), 2) a sense of control (for example, doorways that are easily navigable, and areas where people can find privacy), 3) opportunities for social support, and 4) opportunities for movement and exercise. While it may seem obvious that nature should be present in a healing garden, examples of nature-poor healthcare “gardens” abound. Stakeholders must work together to maximize the natural, biophilic elements that facilitate the best possible outcomes for all users.

Smilow Cancer Center

Betty Ruth and Milton B. Hollander Healing Garden, Smilow Cancer Hospital. Designer: Towers Golde. Photo by Naomi Sachs


Cooper Marcus, C., & Sachs, N. A. (2014). Therapeutic landscapes: An evidence-based approach to designing healing gardens and restorative outdoor spaces. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley and Sons.

Kaplan, S. (1995). The restorative benefits of nature: Toward an integrative framework. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 15, 169–82.

Kellert, S. R., & Wilson, E. O. (1993). The biophilia hypothesis. Washington, DC: Island Press.

Kuo, M. (2015). How might contact with nature promote human health? Promising mechanisms and a possible central pathway. Frontiers in Psychology, 6(1093).

Sachs, N. A. (2016). Gardens/Overview. Therapeutic Landscapes Network website. Retrieved from

Ulrich, R. S. (1999). Effects of gardens on health outcomes: Theory and research. In Cooper Marcus, C. & Barnes, M. (Eds.), Healing gardens: Therapeutic benefits and design recommendations (27–86). New York: John Wiley and Sons.

Book citation: Sachs, N. A. (in Press). In D. Kopec (author). Environmental psychology for design, 3rd Edition. New York: Fairchild Books.


“Ecoliteracy Under Our Feet” – Greening Cleveland Elementary School

Tuesday, December 30th, 2014

Children and nature

For the last Therapeutic Landscapes Network Blog post of 2014, we want to share an inspiring story of one of many schools that that is “greening” its schoolyard. The six gardens and overall ecoliteracy program at Cleveland Elementary School in Oakland, CA were spurred by Mary Schriner, who interviewed for a position there. When they asked her why she wanted to work at Cleveland Elementary, she responded, “Because your school looks like a prison yard, and I’d like to change that.” And she has changed both the school and grounds, and the lives of those who learn and teach there. One of the first conversations with her students began with the question, “What is a weed?” The project has been a tremendous success. Says Schriner, “I’ve had many, many moments when I’ve almost wanted to cry because I can feel the community happening, not because of me, but because of the natural world that we’re trying to create conditions for at the school. There’s been so much magic around the garden that I just have a lot of gratitude.”

Click here to read the full article by The Center for Ecoliteracy‘s senior editor Michael Stone, “So Much Magic Around the Garden.”


Landscapes for people with cancer – A (former) patient’s point of view. Guest post by Kevan Busa

Friday, July 11th, 2014
Busa at lake

Kevan at the lake.

Kevan Busa first contacted me in August of 2012. He was in his last year as an undergraduate in landscape architect at SUNY-ESF, and had been excited about the upcoming semester abroad program in Barcelona, Spain…until he was diagnosed with Leukemia. When he emailed me, he was in his fourth out of five rounds of chemotherapy, and was scheduled to be in Buffalo for three months to get a bone marrow transplant. He wrote, “I talked to my school and doctors and i think that i am going to be doing an independent study of healing spaces while i am there.” Seriously? You plan on doing research while you recover from chemo and a bone marrow transplant? Wow. And he did! His research was subsequently published in the June, 2013 issue of Landscape Architecture magazine. I asked him to write a guest post for the TLN Blog, and he graciously agreed. The post is below.

Looking back at by far the hardest year of my life, I have realized the potential that I have to share my information with the professional world and especially people interested in healing spaces. There is more information being added every day that will help so many people in the future and am honored to be adding my research and experience to the Therapeutic Landscapes Network.

I was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia and went through a Bone Marrow Transplant within the past year. There was a lot to take in when I got sick and to think about, especially life. Being a landscape architecture student at the State University of New York: College of Environmental Science and Forestry, the topic of healing spaces from within a hospital setting was always on my mind. I went through chemotherapy rounds as the world around me was enjoying summer and the outdoors. All I wanted to do was to be outside when I wasn’t getting treatment.


Enter now! Landscape Architecture for Healthcare Communities awards

Friday, June 27th, 2014
Smilow Cancer Hospital healing garden

The stream at Yale-New Haven’s Smilow Cancer Hospital. Design by Towers Golde. Photo by Naomi Sachs

2013 was a momentous year for landscape architecture in healthcare design: It was the first year that Healthcare Design and Environments for Aging held the Landscape Architecture for Healthcare Communities Awards.

The projects were chosen by two different panels of jurors – one for Acute Care (Healthcare Design) and one for Senior Living (Environments for Aging and Long-Term Living). Acute Care and Senior Living project award winners were featured in the December digital issues of Healthcare Design and EFA magazines. Acute Care award winners were also featured in the May/June 2014 print edition and will be honored in November at HEALTHCARE DESIGN14 in San Diego, CA. Senior Living project winners were honored at the Environments for Aging conference in May.

And here’s more good news: They’re doing it again! Submission are due for both categories on July 14, 2014 so get busy with your applications.

This is a terrific opportunity for landscape architects and healthcare facilities with successful therapeutic landscapes to showcase their work, and for everyone else to see the best examples of how it should be done. (more…)