Everyone has experienced a feeling of awe and wonder in a natural setting. Given the opportunity, people seek these places both as sites to witness the beautiful, natural edifices of God's creation and as sanctuaries to seek personal solace for inspiration and healing.
Within cities and towns, architects often forget the human need for natural spaces. As man-made structures dominate a landscape, natural settings shrink. Often, this creates a general impersonal atmosphere as humans become more and more detached from their natural environments. Steel and concrete constructions, void of flora and fauna, create cold, lonely places, places that are often not conducive to good health.
People must intervene when needed. Natural spaces can be preserved or created to ensure a balanced environment beneficial to humans remains. These "gardens" offer many benefits to local inhabitants, benefits that may be subtle and unrecognized by those who wander their paths.
Consider the value of Central Park, a 843 acres oasis within the metropolis of Manhattan, New York City. While planting and land form in much of the park appear natural, it is, in fact, almost entirely landscaped. Central Park is the most visited urban park in the country offering a varied natural landscape and providing activities such as birding, boating, ice skating, rock climbing, horseback riding, jogging and bicycling. The park serves the natural needs of native New Yorkers and approximately thirty-five million visitors annually.
Speaking of the park, John Hench wrote...
"Big cities are chaotic.
And chaos for humans - who have experience from their ancestors - is the last step before conflict.
So, in the park, every kind of visual contradiction has been eliminated." - John Hench, Artist
Humans Can Create Healing Gardens
Today healing gardens have generated tremendous interest. These places facilitate in improving or restoring an individual’s mental or physical health. Therapeutic landscape design is one of the biggest growing facets of landscape architecture.
Healing gardens promote physical and mental health by providing people the benefits of horticultural therapy and therapeutic horticulture.
- Reducing physical pain
- Providing sensory stimulation
- Improving memory and concentration
- Easing emotional pain from bereavement or abuse
- Cultivating nurturing feelings
- Encouraging social interaction
- Teaching responsibility
- Reducing stress and anger
- Enhancing productivity and problem solving
- Decreases the severity of depression
These healing landscapes can be located in or outdoors, but to qualify as healing “gardens” they should have real nature such as plants and/or water features. (Cooper-Marcus, C. and M. Barnes. 1995. Gardens in Healthcare Facilities: Uses, Therapeutic Benefits, and Design Recommendations. Martinez, CA: The Center for Health Design.)
Whether working in a garden or viewing a garden, a person benefits immensely.
Horticultural therapy provides meaningful activity and connection to the natural world. People can benefit from simply viewing and growing plants and, with guidance from a horticultural therapist, the benefits of people-plant interactions can be focused and enhanced.