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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Healing gardens in healthcare facilities : linking restorative value and design features Barnes, Debra


For most of the previous century, the program and design of healthcare facilities supported the dominant cure-based medical model of illness treatment. In the closing decades of the twentieth century increasing interest in a holistic approach to patient care that acknowledges a connection between mind, body and spirit supported the inclusion of healing gardens in healthcare facilities. Empirical evidence suggests that patient support requires the provision of access to nature and outdoor spaces. If space in healthcare facilities is to be programmed for outdoor use, what design features of this setting cares for patients, both psychologically and emotionally while supporting their physiological needs? Further, does the therapeutic benefit and significance of discrete garden features vary depending on the illness and healing processes of a particular patient population? This thesis begins to answer the above-noted questions by reviewing the literature on the historical approach to patient care based both on documented anecdotal information and as evidenced by the design of healthcare facilities and their adjacent outdoor spaces. Current multi-disciplinary research and empirical evidence supporting the link between nature and restorative benefit is also presented. Finally, the healing gardens supporting three special patient populations (Alzheimer's, AHDS, and Pediatrics) are reviewed, endeavoring to link specific design features to restorative value. The result of this investigation is a matrix synthesizing the relative benefit of discrete garden design features to specific patient populations. The matrix lists over fifty design features of a healing garden and groups each feature into one of three categories: experiential, functional, and contextual. In terms of restorative benefit, generally, the matrix rates experiential design features as essential for all patient population types and identifies contextual features as highly desirable. Variation in the importance of the functional design features of a healing garden begins to emerge when considering the particular needs of special patient populations. This study may be used to guide a design process for the provision of healing gardens in a healthcare facility that recognizes both the therapeutically beneficial experiential design features and significant contextual features of a healing garden, while acknowledging that the functional characteristics of the garden will be informed by the needs of particular user groups and special patient populations.

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