Throughout history, gardens have been used to help in the healing process. From the meditative Japanese Zen garden to the monastic cloister garden, nature has proven to have certain biophilic benefits. With the onset of modern architectural advances in healthcare campuses in the 20th century, the use of gardens as healing elements began to diminish. Today, hospital healing gardens are beginning to be reimagined and incorporated as vital elements to healthcare design. A recent interest in complementary and alternative therapies, which emphasize healing the whole person—mind, body and spirit—rather than simply alleviating symptoms, is one of the main reasons why the interest in gardens as healers has been revived.
Challenging site considerations can also present healing garden opportunities as was the case with Holy Cross Hospital. A narrow sliver of space separated the front façade of the hospital from the two-story, partially submerged parking structure. Unfortunately, the parking structure served as the true front door of the hospital. The landscape architects presented with this design challenge utilized the narrow space to provide users with intimate settings, a water element for noise abatement, wildlife habitat, vertical elements and naturalistic plantings. The buffer between architecture and functional space is greatly enhanced, and on a pleasant day the garden’s usage is evident.
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