Encouraging a healthier body and mind

Keywords body, mind, activity, relaxation, accessibility

Background and Definition
Landscape architects design to encourage stronger relationships between people and the outdoor environments, for physical activity and mental restoration. Landscape architecture is increasingly grounded in academic research suggesting time spent outdoors around plants and animals is essential for a person’s physical, mental, emotional, social, and psychological health and well-being.

Access to the outdoors is important for people of all ages and abilities. Elderly adults live longer when they live near a park, college students do better on exams when they can look outside from their residence hall windows, and children have fewer attention deficit disorder (ADD) symptoms after playing outside (Beals 2010).

Humans were hunter gathers for tens of thousands of years before agriculture and technology allowed humans to remain stationary and live indoors (Figure 3.1). Such changes in lifestyle far from evolutionary tradition may help explain why spending time outdoors is important for human health and well-being. In E.O. Wilson’s landmark 1984 book, Wilson coined the phrase biophilia. “Biophilia…is the innately emotional affiliation of human beings to other living organisms. Innate means hereditary and hence part of ultimate human nature” (Wilson 1993, 31). In other words, humans respond in a positive way much more readily to natural objects than man-made objects.

Even the simple act of viewing nature helps people’s mental state and well-being. This was exemplified by a landmark 1980’s study. Hospital patients with a view outside healed faster, needed less pain medication, and had fewer post-surgical complications than those without a view outdoors (Ulrich 1984).

Landscape architects create outdoor environments suitable for physical activity like running, rollerskating, exercising, walking, and playing sports. Health benefits of participating in sports is widely known. Physical activity prevents coronary heart diseases, obesity, diabetes, ADD and ADHD, osteoporosis and even some types of cancer (Paffenbarger et al. 1986; Pate et al. 1995). Moving around the city as a pedestrian or a cyclist has very similar effects and certain studies are suggesting that this way of working out is easier to start and people continue to work out longer (Laitakari et al. 1996).

Another way landscape architects can improve health and well-being is by impacting the quality of outdoor environments in locations like hospitals, schools, and nursing homes. This can help those who are physically or mentally disabled (Gross 1998). For example, there is evidence children who have diminished activity outdoors are suffering serious cognitive and psychological health problems like depression (Faber Taylor, Kuo & Sullivan 2001, 2002; Faber Taylor, Wiley, Kuo & Sullivan 1998; Wells & Evans 2003). Therapeutic landscapes can drastically reduce pain to those who are physically or mentally ill ( Therapeutic and Healing Landscape Design 2010). Better mental health can be achieved through use of elements that are outside one’s self, such as the observation of plants or animals. It can also be obtained through the action of simply growing a plant or even being in a relaxed meditative state as your mind escapes your body through the sense of smell, sound, touch, sight, and taste ( Therapeutic and Healing Landscape Design 2010). Water features, accessible planters, and a specific pallet of plant species are all useful features to a therapeutic environment. (Severtsen n.d.)

Landscape architects plan, design, and create outdoor environments at a variety of scales to help people of all ages and physical abilities to get outdoors. These outdoor environments have shown to help people live happier and healthier lives.


How do landscape architects help reduce people’s obesity?

How do landscape architects improve mental health?

How do landscape architects design at various scales to encourage a healthier lifestyle?


Central Park
Client: New York State Legislature
Year of Completion: 1857
Project Location: New York, New York, United States
Site Area: 843 acres

Landscape Architects: Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux
Even before modern research began to show the benefits of time spent outdoors, one of the oldest and most recognized parks in the world had already been created with public health in mind. Central Park was designed and built in the 1860’s by Calvert Vaux and Frederick Law Olmsted, America’s most recognized landscape architect. Olmsted cited the restorative benefits of the outdoors as a central reason behind the creation of Central Park (Central Park Conservancy 2015). During the Industrial Revolution of the 19th century, New York City was overpopulated, full of unsanitary living conditions and housing was built with little regard to human wellness. Central Park was designed intentionally to be a restorative escape from the ills of the city, in the city (Figure 3.2).


Figure 3.1 Figure 3.1: Central Park is a restorative escape in the City. Quintano 2014.

Today, it is the most visited urban park in the United States with over 40 million visitors each year (Central Park Conservancy 2015) and brings together people of all ages and incomes to enjoy the park’s many trails, fountains, lakes, ponds, meadows, and lawns. The park features (Central Park Conservancy 2015):
● 58 miles of bicycling, running, and walking path
● 35 lawns/landscapes
● 26 baseball and softball fields
● 26 tennis courts
● 21 playgrounds
● 12 water bodies for fishing, boating, and other activities
● 12 handball courts
● 7 fountains
● Volleyball courts
● Bicycle rental facilities
● A zoo
Figure 3.3 summarizes various uses and features of Central Park.

Figure 3.2 Figure 3.2: Central Park has many uses and features. Knight 2015. Central Park Conservancy. 2011. 2015.


Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center
Client: Banner Health, Phoenix
Year of Completion: 2005
Project Location: Phoenix, Arizona, United States
Site Area: .5 acres
Landscape Architects: Ten Eyck, Kristina Floor

The Healing Garden, Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center, in Phoenix, Arizona was constructed as a rooftop courtyard, in 2005. Since then, the garden has used a water feature to create a visual, audible, and touchable element throughout the rooftop. Accessible paths encourages moderate activity, and a coffee shop promotes social encounters. The use of painted tiled columns and native plants creates an aesthetically pleasing scene that not only provides an escape for the patients, but also the facility and family members (Marcus 1999). Over the years multiple studies have been conducted supporting the positive effects of reduced stress levels and mental health that come from an accessible landscape environment. One specific survey questioned hospital employees about the potential of greenspace in the workplace. The results of the survey were 95% of doctors believed that an outdoor space in the the hospital would positively affect their mood as well as 79.2% of nurses (Georgi 2010).


Figure 3.3 Figure 3.3: Banner Good Samaritan Outdoor Elements. Floor Associates

Unfortunately, this concept can be difficult to prove or even test, but over the years many scientist have produced studies to support the idea. A report indicated that 80% of the most rigorous studies found positive links between environmental characteristics and patient health outcomes (Rubin 1998).


 Figure 3.4Figure 3.4: Banner Good Samaritan Courtyard. Floor Associates


Remodeling of St. Joan Boulevard, Barcelona
Client: City council Barcelona
Year of Completion: 2011
Project Location: Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain
Site Area: 7.8 acres
Landscape Architects: L ola Domènech and Teresa Galí

Good landscape design of a streetscape encourages inhabitants to use a city in way that helps their mental and physical healing. By accommodating peoplefriendly
features such as walking pathways, bicycling lanes, comfortable seating and focal points like statues or fountains, streetscapes enable people to walk and bike comfortably and safely. That’s an easy way of exercising for inhabitants! St. Joan Boulevard in Barcelona is a great example of transitioning a regular street into a vibrant and walkable urban space. St. Joan Boulevard goes from a park toward the Arc de Triomf. Its total length is 1.3 miles. It is a very busy place with opportunity to be a part of Barcelona’s green infrastructure. The Boulevard is 165 ft. wide. Originally there was 40 ft. of pavement on each side plus an 85 ft. roadway for vehicles and central bicycle lane. On each side there was a line of trees; paving was in a very bad state. There were three different sections throughout the boulevard, so the transportation was unnecessarily complicated.

The boulevard’s renewal had two main purposes: (a) to give priority to the pedestrians and (b) to turn the boulevard into a new urban green zone extending to the park ( Obavijesti 2012).

In order to meet these expectations, three criteria had been implemented into the project:
● Continuous section throughout the whole street – extended pavements (55 ft. on each side), maintaining old trees, and accompanying them with new ones.
● Adapt the urban space to different uses – walking, cycling, driving, leisure zonesbenches, children’s play areas and bar terraces.
● Sustainable urban green zone add two rows of trees on each side with new drainage and recreational areas along the walking part of pavement.


Figure 3.5 Figure 3.5: A view of St Joan Boulevard. Adrià Goul a 2011.


Figure 3.6 Figure 3.6: St Joan Boulevard before redesign. Google maps 2015.


Figure 3.7 Figure 3.7: St Joan Boulevard after redesign. Google maps 2015.


Figure 3.7 Figure 3.8: St Joan Boulevard after redesign. Google maps 2015.


Figure 3.8 Figure 3.9: St Joan Boulevard right-of-way section. Lola Domenech 2011. Lengths and signage added by Kafkova (2015) .


Two thirds of street space are now given to the pedestrians. There is a safe lane for bicyclists and fast lane for public transportation, cars are left with only one lane, because previous research indicated no need for more car space in this particular street.


Beals, Kimberly, University of Illinois at UrbanaChampaign, News Bureau Production. “Access tonature is essential to human health.” n.d. YouTube video, 4:12. Posted byIllinois1867,May 17, 2010. _gdata _player.

Central Park Conservancy. 2011. Report on the Public Use of Central Park . New York, NY. April 2011.———. 2015. “About Us.” Accessed February 8, 2015,

English, Jennifer, Kathi Wilson, and Susan KellerOlaman. 2008. “Health, Healing and Recovery: Therapeutic Landscapes and the Everyday Lives of Breast Cancer Survivors.” Social Science & Medicine 67 (1): 68–78. doi:10.1016/j.socscimed.2008.03.043.

Faber Taylor, Andrea, Francis E. Kuo, and William C. Sullivan. 2001. “Coping with ADD: The surprising connection to green play settings.” Environment and Behavior 33 (1): 5477. ———. 2002. “Views of nature and selfdiscipline: Evidence from inner city children.” Journal of Environmental Psychology 22 : 4963.

Faber Taylor, Andrea, Angela Wiley, Francis E. Kuo, and William C. Sullivan. 1998. “Growing up in the inner city: Green spaces as places to grow.” Environment and Behavior 30 (1): 327.

Georgi, Julia N. and Dimos Dimitriou. 2010. ”The Contribution of Urban Green Space to the Improvement of Environment in Cities: Case Study of Chania”. Building and Environment . Greece.

Gross, Raz, Yehuda Sasson, Moshe Zarhy, and Joseph. Zohar. 1998. “Healing Environment in Psychiatric Hospital Design.” General Hospital Psychiatry 20 (2): 108–14.

Laitakari, Jukka, Ilkka Vuroi, and Pekka Oja. 1996. “Is longterm maintenance of healthrelated physical activity possible? An analysis of concepts and evidence.” Health Education and Research 11, 4: 46377.

Marcus, Clare Cooper. 1999. Healing Gardens: Therapeutic Benefits and Design Recommendations . John Wiley & Sons.

Obavijesti . 2012. Passeig De St Joan Boulevard by Lola Domènech , Accessed February 8, 2015.

Paffenbarger, Ralph & IMin Lee. 1996. “Physical activity and fitness for health and longevity.” Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport 67, 3(Suppl.): 1128.

Pate, Russell, Michael Pratt, Steven N. Blair, William L. Haskell, Caroline A. Macera, Claude Bouchard, David Buchner, Walter Ettinger, Gregory W. Heath, Abby C. King, Andrea Kriska, Arthur S. Leon, Bess H. Marcus, Jeremy Morris, Ralph S. Paffenbarger, Kevin Patrick, Michael L. Polock, James Rippe, James Sallis, and Jack Wilmore..1995. “Physical activity and public health: A recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American College of Sports Medicine.” Journal of the American Medical Association 273: 402-7.

Portman, Tarrell A. A., and Micahel T. Garrett. 2006. “Native American Healing Traditions.” International Journal of Disability, Development and Education 53 (4): 453 69.doi:10.1080/10349120601008647.

Rubin, Haya, Amanda J. Owens and Greta Golden. 1998. “Status Report: An Investigation to Determine Whether the Built Environment Affects Patients’ Medical Outcomes.” Martinez, CA: The Center for Health Design.

Severtsen, Billie. “Healing Gardens.” University of Washington. Accessed January 29, 2015
_gardens.pdf .

Therapeutic and *Healing Landscape Design* . 2010. Ulrich, Roger S. 1984. “View through a Window May Influence Recovery from Surgery.” Science (New York, N.Y.) 224 (4647): 420–21.

Wells, Nancy. & Gary Evans. 2003. “Nearby nature: A buffer of life stress among rural children.” Environment and Behavior 35 (3): 31130.

Wilson, E. O. 1993. “Biophilia and the Conservation Ethic.” In: Kellert S. and Wilson E.O. (eds.): The Biophilia Hypothesis . Shearwater Books, Washington, D.C., pp. 31.

Figure References

Figure 3.1. “Global Citizen Festival in Central Park New York City with NYonAir.” September 27, 2014. Digital photograph by Anthony Quintano. Accessed February 8, 2015. Reproduced from flickr, Made available under an Attribution 2.0 Generic Creative Commons license,

Figure 3.2. Central Park has many uses and features. Data from Central Park Conservancy. 2011. Report on the Public Use of Central Park . New York, NY. April 2011 and Central Park Conservancy. “About Us.” Accessed February 8, 2015, Adapted by Jonathan Knight 2015.

Figure 3.3. “Floor Associates.” 2015. Banner Good Samaritan . Accessed February 9.

Figure 3.4. “Floor Associates.” 2015. Banner Good Samaritan . Accessed February 9. .

Figure 3.5. Passeig De St Joan Boulevard by Lola Domènech . Photograph by Adria Goula. Accessed February 8, 2015.

Figure 3.6. Barcelona, Spain. Map. Google Maps (2008). Google. Accessed February 8, 2015.

Figure 3.7. Barcelona, Spain. Map. Google Maps (2014). Google. Accessed February 8, 2015.

Figure 3.8. “ remodelling of Passeig de St Joan boulevard lola domènech“ Created by Lola Domenech. 2011. Accessed February 8, 2105. Lengths and signage added by Kafkova (2015).

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