Image courtesy Henry Domke Fine Art
Complexity, openness, and water. According to a 2007 study by Ke-Tsung Han, these are three of the most preferred physical landscape characteristics.*
One of the questions designers of therapeutic landscapes grapple with is what kind of landscape will elicit the best outcomes for our clients. Even before we think about plant material, we have to decide how the space should be organized. Should it feel open or enclosed? Have a sense of mystery or be instantly “legible” to the user? And then how much plant material to use, and how to use it. To some extent, the answers are dependent on your intended user and on the space you have to work with. Unfortunately, for those who like to design spaces based on research (this is called Evidence-Based Design, or EBD), there’s not a whole lot out there for us to go on. One thing we know for sure: the majority of people, especially in a healthcare setting, prefer a high ratio of green, or “softscape,” to hardscape (paving, walls, etc.). Therefore, the more we can use plant material (rather than hardscape) to create space, the better; and the lusher that environment is, the more restorative it will feel. We have also seen a fair amount of evidence that people like and respond well to landscapes with water.
This week InformeDesign, one of the best resources for EBD-oriented designers, summarizes a study about such preferences. It’s a great addition to a growing body of research. Click HERE to read the summary, or contact Environment and Behavior directly for the full article. Next, I’d love to see this study repeated with different populations (people of different ages, ethnic backgrounds, countries, etc.), and measured for actual outcomes rather than restorative potential.
*Han, Ke-Tsung (2007). “Responses to Six Major Terrestrial Biomes in Terms of Scenic Beauty, Preference, and Restorativeness,” Environment and Behavior, Vol. 39, No. 4, pp. 529-556.
Note: The above image was not one used in the study, but I think it illustrates the three physical characteristics of complexity, openness, and water.