At Boston Children’s Hospital we brought in our Landscape Architecture Foundation post-occupancy Case Study Investigators from Harvard GSD, Gareth Doherty (Faculty leader), Anne Tong, and Garret Craig-Lukas, to see the sight, navigate the different spaces and understand the unique conditions of designing for health and wellness.

This investigation, focusing on Boston Children’s Hospital’s indoor and outdoor healing gardens, provides an unique opportunity to explore how various design elements, such as material palette, color and light, planting, and art installations, collectively contribute to creating spaces that prioritize inclusion and embrace neurodiversity.

Our interest in the case study investigation is rooted in our deep dedication to improving the well-being of the community and enhancing the lives of patients and families at BCH.  We acknowledge the critical importance of healing gardens in accommodating the diverse needs and sensory experiences of their users, particularly those with neurodiverse conditions.

Landscape architecture has evolved beyond aesthetics, embracing a role that directly impacts the physical, mental, and emotional well-being of individuals. Healing gardens, like those at Boston Children’s Hospital, stand as essential components of healthcare facilities, offering respite, solace, and recovery to patients and families. Neuro-inclusive design takes this to the next level by recognizing and addressing the unique sensory experiences and needs of individuals.

Neuro-inclusive design places great emphasis on the selection of materials used in landscape architecture. Every element, from hardscape materials to plant selections, plays a role in impacting sensory experiences. For individuals with a myriad of sensitivities, the texture of pathways or seating surfaces is crucial. Materials should be chosen for their safety, durability, and their ability to meet the demands of high-traffic healthcare environments.

The Landscape Architecture Foundation Case Study Investigation provides a platform for us to research and document the outcomes of neuro-inclusive design principles in action. Our collaboration with Harvard’s Graduate School of Design allows us to contribute to the knowledge base in landscape architecture and healthcare design. Our aim is to develop a comprehensive understanding of how various design elements collectively contribute to the success of healing gardens in catering to diverse user needs.

This collaborative research also equips us with quantitative and qualitative data to inform future projects. Systematic assessment of the impact of neuro-inclusive design on user well-being and satisfaction will guide us in refining and enhancing our design strategies for healthcare landscapes.

Boston Children’s Hospital is a symbol of hope and healing for children and families, and we hope to share our research with other institutions and designers around the world.