‘Healing environment’ is the umbrella term for the environmental factors that can positively influence patient wellbeing in hospitals and other medical institutions. In this brief article I will investigate the possible uses of landscape, trees and plants in hospital environments. My aim is to show what is already known, what we can learn from successful examples and what opportunities and challenges lie ahead.
Our behaviour and well-being are – often without us being aware of it – influenced by the spaces in which we find ourselves. Within the field of environmental psychology the ongoing search for relationships between physical environment and behaviour aims to identify best practices for designing these spaces. Research examples are children’s learning behaviour under different lighting conditions, the incidence of vandalism in well-kept versus neglected public spaces and the relationship between purchasing behaviour and background music, ambient temperature or smell. The influence of greenery and nature on people’s well-being is another, related domain of study.
A distinction can be drawn between factors that directly influence the functioning of the human body and factors that have a more roundabout influence on our actions and health. Light, air quality and temperature exert an influence on respiration, vision and agility, amounting to a direct influence. Indirect factors such as ambient colour, smell, complexity and tidiness can stimulate or dampen behaviour, but are less strict preconditions (as it is possible to get by with more or less of it). Still, these factors merit further study and are especially relevant for designers, as the outcomes could enable them to enrich their designs and make them more original and effective.