The Outdoors for An Inpatient
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by Susan E. Mazer, Ph.D.
Published in the American Society of Landscape Architects newsletter, August 2010
Without a doubt, nature demonstrates itself most stunningly in the complexities and depth of its landscapes. Whether rolling hills, the outlines of tall Ponderosa Pines, the mountains of the Sierra Nevada or the deserts of Jordan and the beaches of the Mediterranean—each offers its own model of beauty, aesthetic profile, and palette of changeable colors.
Then there are the “landscapes” of a hospital room that offer only the views afforded by the patient’s acuity in determining what is accessible. Years ago, when I was first beginning to work in healthcare design, I put my head on the pillow of an empty ICU bed, closed my eyes, and then opened them to see what was directly in the line of sight. There was a wall with a clock on it, a television monitor, and, if I looked further down, a stainless steel canister that had a skull and crossbones on it and words in bold red stating: “Danger!! Contaminated needles!!” The one picture to my left was at an angle such that my peripheral vision could barely see it. No hills or valleys, streams or rivers, green pastures or walkways.
The world of landscape architecture is one of great depth and diversity. And, while one thinks of landscapes as being outdoor environments, in contemporary built environments, nature has moved indoors. Further, with the substantial studies that have considered the role of nature in recovery, the move toward providing healing gardens for patients and families has grown.