Vryburg District Hospital
North West Province, South Africa
Completed 2009

Vryburg is a large agricultural town, situated midway between Kimberly and Mafikeng, on the N14 in the North West province of South Africa. GREENinc was asked by Hospital Design Group to provide landscape architectural services needed for a new district hospital developed by the Department of Public Works.

We saw our appointment on this project, as an opportunity and a challenge to add value to the project. We were determined that the landscape should not just be the pretty backdrop of a purposeful building, but that the landscape should be purposeful as well.

As we had no clear brief from the client, we decided to dedicate our time at the onset of the project, to do research on the concept of 'Therapeutic Landscapes' This is a phrase used to describe a landscape or garden which aids the process of healing when individuals are able to have physical and psychological (sensory) interaction with nature.

The design concept for the project developed gradually as we progressed through our research. The concept had nothing to do with form, style, the latest industry trends or catch-phrases. It was simply to use the principles of therapeutic landscape design, as a guideline for all decision making, in order to create a landscape with the purpose of aiding in the convalescence of the patients, provide a welcoming, supportive spaces to their visitors and a relaxing environment for the staff.

At the end of the research period, we compiled all the information we had gathered into a therapeutic design check list, which we used to measure every aspect of our design against. The four main points of this check are: Accessibility, Mobility, Functional Space and & Sensory stimulation.

The design principles did not only deal with the landscape, but addressed the relationship between the building and the landscape as well. We discussed the visual and physical access to the landscape from the building with the architects and explained to the client that in order for the landscape to fulfill its purpose, patients and visitors need to be made aware of the garden spaces and also be encouraged to use it.

Ease of movement is a critical requirement of a hospital landscape and the mobility check list addressed issues such as path widths, paving materials, ramps and route difficulty.

The spatial planning of this landscape presented a great challenge, as our involvement in the project came only after the design of the building was completed. Garden spaces left over after the design of the building were either long and narrow, with very little privacy, or very large with roads or parking as the only defining edges and virtually no sense of enclosure. The guidelines we compiled regarding functional space in therapeutic landscapes were invaluable in dealing with these areas. We had to provide the user with spaces with varied sizes, varying degrees of privacy and enclosure, as well as the choice of different types of seating.

Only at the end of this process, we had the opportunity to deal with the element that most people associate with gardens, namely sensory stimulation provided through planting, water and artwork. It is the category that landscape architects are generally most comfortable with, but in the context of a therapeutic landscape, these elements have to be considered carefully and applied responsibly as physically ill and emotionally frail individuals, respond differently to sensory stimulus than those who are not.

By addressing the issues of accessibility, mobility, functional spaces, and sensory stimulation, we hoped to provide patients and visitors to the hospital with the choice. For example: the choice to go outside, the choice of which route to take and which space to linger in and where to sit. This may seem insignificant, but being able to make choices, gives the individual a sense of control in a situation where control has been taken away from them by accident or illness. This sense of control leads to a reduction in stress which is essential for achieving good health - and good health is ultimately the overall goal.

GreenInc © 2017