Therapeutic Landscapes - Health Benefits of Natural Environments

Many people would associate the concept of healing gardens with hospitals, palliative and aged care facilities, as well as natural environments. It would seem though that more attention is warranted to the wider application of these principles in other places, after all the health benefits of natural environments on people are well documented.

Surely this area of study has even more relevance as a preventative treatment in today's stress-filled world than ever before.

A casual survey of Australian suburbia suggests that the value of vegetation in landscape is under-recognised. Pavements, feature walls in bright colours, stack stone, render, 'architectural plants', turf, and of course hedging (still) dominate by far. The popularity of 'outdoor rooms', combined with the smaller yards and larger houses, means that private outdoor environments are commonly dominated by hard elements.

Anybody might suggest that the social/psychological benefits of having a functional space for good times and human interaction far outweighs any kick you can get out of some greenery. Designers need to focus their creative powers on integrating both concepts into the built environment. After all, it's the job of a landscape architect to improve environments in multiple aspects.


The issue of available space presents a challenge. Making urban places more therapeutic requires doing so in a minimal amount of space. Utilising green walls of various kinds can be a solution in many spaces to provide people contact with vegetation, be it a green outlook from a window or vegetating a small courtyard. The use of climbers is of course just one way to maximise vegetation in a space. Another is something as simple as indoor plants in office spaces which have been shown to have a positive effect on workers.


Another challenge is maintenance. Our time-poor modern life means for many of us that free time is booked out to recreation time, family time, 'me' time - anything but gardening time. A key element of a healing landscape is vegetation. The more vegetation, the more maintenance required. The native bush garden answers the maintenance question to an extent, but the challenge is to overcome popular aesthetics and the traditional perception that vegetation should be controlled.

Designing to improve our health and well being is more important than ever in today's stress-filled world. There are plenty of opportunities within landscape design to ensure we are improving our environments and ensuring that our health and well being is a priority.

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Therapeutic Landscapes

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