Before the official start of the ASLA (American Society of Landscape Architects) conference last week, I had the good fortune of attending a “meeting before the meeting” tour of several gardens at healthcare facilities in the San Diego area with the ASLA Healthcare and Therapeutic Design Professional Practice Network. Chris Garcia did an amazing job of planning the tour and coordinating the entire day. Kudos to Chris and to all of the good people who opened their doors and let us tromp through their facilities, asking millions of questions and taking lots of pictures.
In the next couple of blog posts, I’ll share some impressions and photos from our tour, in chronological order of what we visited.
San Diego Hospice
Garden type: Hospice “tribute garden”
Designers: Wimmer, Yamada and Caughey
Visiting: As this is a hospice, you should definitely call first if you’d like to visit.
The following is an excerpt from the article “Hospital Gardens That Help Heal,” by E’Louise Ondash, RN
Peggy Lee, RN, a staff nurse for 15 years at the Inpatient Care Center at San Diego Hospice, has no doubt that its Tribute Garden serves as a place where patients, families and staff can rest and renew.
“It’s a very beautiful and peaceful place – an atmosphere of quiet and peace,” she said of the garden, which contains mostly native and drought-tolerant plants. “People go there to sit and reflect on what is happening with their loved ones, and we have brought patients there.”
The Tribute Garden is designed “more as a plaza—fully open, with plants and benches flanking its sides.” The grounds are comprised of colored stones that weave patterns throughout the area. A bronze sculpture of a woman and child highlights the northern end of the garden, but perhaps the most notable feature of the garden is its location. It sits on a high bluff overlooking a large valley, once the bed of the San Diego River, and a picturesque ocean-front bay.
“I think this setting sometimes prompts families to remember the things they did with their loved ones,” Lee said, “and it is used sometimes when the staff needs private time to grieve a bit on our own. We can take a break and collect ourselves and say goodbye (to our patients).”
For the full article, visit http://www.nursezone.com/Nursing-News-Events/more-features/Hospital-Gardens-That-Help-Heal_20738.aspx. © 2007. AMN Healthcare, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Some of my own impressions:
A reassuring entrance
From the moment you enter the parking lot, which is shaded with mature trees, the San Diego Hospice feels like a restorative environment. The entrance is well-marked with signs and a beautiful, sculptural tree. A cool, shaded pergola creates a transition between two buildings. You definitely get the sense that you and your family will be taken care of.
Places for groups, places for individuals; short and longer paths for walking
The grounds offer myriad opportunities for individuals to walk or sit on their own, in small groups of two or three, or for larger gatherings such as memorials. An accessible and easily walkable path winds around the entire main building, with frequent places to rest along the way and interesting things to see up-close and in the distance (the view is amazing).
Resolving the conflict of human vs. environmental health
Research on visual preferences, especially in the healthcare setting, points to people’s desire for a landscape that feels lush and nurturing. This aesthetic is often a conflict with desert landscapes that should use little water and that have a tendency toward plants with spiky and/or blue-grey foliage. Other than a small lawn area, the plantings at San Diego Hospice are all either native or drought-tolerant but are green and lush throughout, providing an excellent example of a garden that can feel full and nurturing while still being environmentally sustainable.