The Landscape director at architects BDP’s Bristol studio considers some of the most effective ways to build access to nature into hospital design to aid recovery and wellbeing, and explains how this was accomplished at two high-profile new hospitals
Martin Jones, Landscape director at international architects BDP’s Bristol studio, considers some of the most effective ways to build access to nature into hospital design to aid recovery and wellbeing, and describes how the practice has recently successfully accomplished this at two high-profile new hospitals in very different settings, one in England and the other in Wales.
When I started my career in landscape architecture many years ago it soon became clear that there was work to be done in convincing clients that landscape design needed to be an integral part of the design process from an early stage, not just a ‘nice-to-have’ add-on to satisfy landscaping conditions. Nowhere more so was this the case than in healthcare. Buildings were seen as inward-looking, functionally efficient clinical plans, and delivery platforms for new medical technologies. Budget was everything, with very little allowance or value placed on the external environment. Words like ‘nature’, ‘sustainability’, ‘placemaking’, and ‘wellbeing’ were not part of the dialogue.
Then an academic called Roger Ulrich used scientific research to demonstrate how access to nature, gardens, and art can lessen pain, stress, and healthcare costs. He wrote about how important access to nature could be to the healing process, demonstrating the positive health outcome of a view through a window onto greenery rather than a brick wall. Since then, numerous studies have examined the relationship between the physical environment of hospitals and health outcomes, including how offering patients access to nature has been shown to help alleviate pain, speed up recovery, and have a positive impact on the wellbeing of patients, visitors, and staff alike. Put simply, that is why access to nature is such a prominent aspect of our work in healthcare design. From Southmead Hospital in a densely populated, urban area of Bristol, to the new Grange University Hospital in the Welsh countryside, nature is reflected, integrated, and designed into, the hospitals we work on from the outset.
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