Health design within landscape architecture – University of Copenhagen

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Health design within landscape architecture

The demand for different types of natural environment that promote health and or support treatment is increasing globally. However, not all natural environments are good for health. Indeed, examples of natural environments that have had negative health outcomes exist. The conscious design of green spaces and gardens so that they, in a certain way, support health processes and result in improved health outcomes has evolved into a new branch of landscape architecture. The English-speaking countries refer to it as Health Design.

The research group asserts that Health Design within landscape architecture consists of four corner stones:

  • The environment
  • The users
  • The human health aspect
  • The use

Image© 2012-2015 John Vanges.

The environment includes natural environments at very different scales, ranging from large nature areas to small pocket parks. Depending on the assignment, both specifically defined environments as well as linkages between them can be considered. The use of the environment must be defined and incorporated into the concept of Health Design because if it is not used in a way that was intended the consequence may be that the health supportive potential diminishes. The use may include, e.g. specific nature-based treatment programs or guided health promoting activities.

A Model for evidence-based health design within landscape architecture

The research group is working towards developing a transparent and exploratory model of the evidence-based health design (E-BHD) process, which is illustrated in the figure below. The model has three equally important main components that must initially be documented:

  1. Aesthetic and practical landscape architectural skills and experience.
  2. Research evidence and valid practical experience.
  3. The specific user-, patient- or target group's special needs, wishes and preferences. In case of treatment, the treatment program and the patient's expected rehabilitation process must be included.
EBHD Model

A schematic illustration of the evidence-based health design process.


It is vital to stress that the three parts are equally important, although finding a balance between them can sometimes be a challenge. This initial work constitutes the foundation for the next step of the model, which is the programming, which guides the subsequent design. Here, the desired health outcomes must be stated; how they will be achieved by the design as well as the evidence to support this. Evidence-based health design is, however, a process. An important aspect of this model is that the process does not stop when the design has been realized. The garden must be continuously evaluated. This is achieved by a post occupancy evaluation (POE), which evaluates whether the design fulfils the intentions but it is also conducted so that any newly documented experiences or research results can be incorporated into the garden design. It is recommended that funding for a POE is taken into account in the budget of any health design.