Hospitals are some of the most heavily regulated, value-engineered spaces in modern society. But according to Boston landscape architect Mikyoung Kim, many of them are seeing the light when it comes to the medical benefits of wide-open green space.
In a Q&A with the New York Times today, Kim describes her “healing gardens” at two major hospitals in Chicago and Miami. Her 5,000-square-foot garden at Lurie Children’s Hospital is a maze of bamboo stands, contemplation areas, and interactive play spaces for children. It’s a quieter kind of work than what happens inside the operating room. After all, it’s much harder to quantify the bodily benefits of sitting in a quiet garden than, say, clipping an aneurysm in the brain.
In Chicago, we have a series of sculptural play elements; some of them are benches. They were salvaged pieces of wood from around Chicago. These logs had all this rot in them. We wondered, Should we repair this, should we make it look new? I said no. The whole idea of healing is there’s often a scar that’s left behind. It’s almost the beauty of healing. It’s not pretending that something is perfect. All of the aging was captured with resin, and then we punched holes in the wood and embedded speakers. Different water sounds come out of the logs.
Kim argues that not all medicine is scientifically tangible, and the emotional stress of conventional treatments is often ignored. “There’s a growing awareness that clinical environments work against the good work that doctors do,” she says, “that they may actually increase stress levels, not only in patients but in their families.”