Health design within landscape architecture

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

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.

The research group has developed a transparent and exploratory model of the evidence-based health design (EBHD) 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

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, 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. 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 (DPOE), 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 DPOE is taken into account in the budget of any health design.

Nature-based use and treatment

The research group has developed a mindfulness-inspired nature-based treatment program. The focus is on developing and strengthening the clients’ capacities as a means to overcoming the illness and enhancing their overall quality of life. It is also important that the clients develop and establish healthy stress preparedness so they can prevent new negative stress from occurring in the future.

The mindfulness activities are used to bring the clients’ attention to and acceptance of the present moment by paying non-judgmental attention to their thoughts and feelings. The clients’ experiences, perceptions, nature-based activities, and the surrounding garden are as well essential parts of the therapeutic process.

The treatment is a ten-week program during which the patients receive three hours of therapy in the morning, for three days a week. The treatment is offered year-round and the therapy is conducted in a group of eight clients who are led by two trained horticultural therapists and an assistant gardener.

At the Nacadia-homepage you can read more about the nature-based treatment (in Danish).