A research paper led by an Australian architectural practice on the subject healing gardens in healthcare has received international recognition.

Normalcy in healthcare design: An extension of the natural and built environment by Australian architectural practice Conrad Gargett was highly commended at this week’s European Healthcare Design Awards. The paper outlines the case for biophilic and people-centred building design in healthcare settings, claiming improvements to patients’ experiences, treatment and wellbeing. The research paper is co-authored by the principal landscape architect at Conrad Gargett, Katharina Nieberler-Walker, and Griffith University in partnership with the Queensland University of Technology.

The research explores how the inclusion and design of gardens and green spaces in healthcare facilities can reduce stress for staff, patients and their families. Findings also show that the incorporation of green spaces effectively expedites recovery times for patients by ‘normalising’ hospital environments.

The insertion of gardens and other natural elements into clinical spaces is an example of ‘biophilic’ design, an approach to urban planning and design that puts environmental integration at its core. According to Conrad Gargett’s research, this biophilic approach – with specific reference to healthcare – helps to create a sense of ‘being away’ from the hospital.

Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital (LCCH), one of Conrad Gargett’s project in South Brisbane, was used as an example of how green-centric design is successful at improving patient outcomes. The hospital features 11 rooftop gardens for recreation, rehabilitation and therapy; a green sloping roof that houses 23,000 plants; and a community plaza featuring six 30-year-old transplanted fig trees.


“The definition of a healing garden is generally agreed to be a nature-oriented space designed to provide restorative, therapeutic or rehabilitative potential,” says Nieberler-Walker.


“In [our] research, we explored and expanded upon various design considerations for reducing stress and confusion, as well as providing a sense of normalcy in what can be a very challenging time for patients, patient families and staff.”


“Whilst interest in, and the inclusion of, gardens in hospitals is increasing, there still remain few examples of rigorously researched and evaluated healing gardens that contribute to patient experiences and well-being,” says Nieberler-Walker.

Though there may only be a small number of hospitals that incorporate gardens as an integrated and pivotal design feature, biophilic design has been seen in a number of residential projects in the last year or two.

Some examples include BVN’s biophilia-designed commercial tower at 301 Wickham Street; a 47-storey building at 443 Queen Street designed by Architectus and WOHA; and a 14-storey residential building at Kangaroo Point by Bureau Proberts. This latter is set to be Australia’s first ‘vertical forest’ apartment tower.

More recently are two proposed projects for Kangaroo Point – a 19-storey residential tower with a multi-layered garden fa├žade designed by Bureau Proberts, and a 'twin tower' residential development by A+ Design Group that incorporates subtropical planting and natural ventilation.

Images: Conrad Gargett