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February 2013 

Landscape and garden design students work up inspiring plans for hospital site

The recuperative effect of the environment on people’s health has long been acknowledged, but an innovative design project at Writtle College is putting this into practice.

Students studying garden design and landscape architecture courses have been working with Princess Alexandra Hospital in Harlow on ways to improve the hospital grounds. The aim was to enhance people’s experiences of the hospital and to boost their wellbeing.

The students have produced master plans of the hospital site and the environment beyond, suggesting innovative design solutions – from better signage to parking improvements, wildlife corridors to concepts for gardens.

But the project is not just a theoretical exercise. The designs have recently gone on show at the hospital with a view to implementing some elements of the concepts.

Marc Davis, Director of Development at the Princess Alexandra Hospital NHS Trust, said: “We approached Writtle School of Design as they have an excellent reputation for designing projects on brief. The standard of work was exceptionally high and we look forward to working with these concepts and ideas”

The project involved students in the Writtle School of Design (WSD) who are studying for a Foundation Degree in Garden Design, BA (Hons) Landscape Architecture, BA (Hons) Landscape and Garden Design, Garden Design Restoration and Management and MA conversion in Landscape Architecture.

Steve Terry, Senior Lecturer in Design at Writtle College, said: “There is a lot of research into why green spaces are important to hospital environments. Our students work with that research and the possibilities presented by the hospital to create their design proposals. They have created master plans of the hospital as well as working on individual areas. The idea is to ‘green’ the hospital and connect it more successfully to the local environment providing staff, patients and hospital visitors, with a landscape that contributes to healing and wellbeing.

“The advantage with WSD is that we have a range of courses that engage with the environment through design. This project draws on different disciplines, putting design theory into practice. The students have shown how research into the impact of green spaces on healthy living can be turned into tangible solutions. Moreover, this gives our students valuable experience of working with real clients and real projects.”

The students’ rationale was to take a large scale design in the public realm and to look at the ideas of community, green infrastructure, ecology and diversity of land use. The students developed five conceptual approaches and presented these to both Mr Davis and the estates team.

Their designs look at signage, landscape legibility, signposting the entrances, ‘green-ing’ the hospital, parking flows and how the hospital is linked with the other green spaces in Harlow.

Mr Davis from the hospital added: “Staff, patients and visitors have already been getting excited about the designs which are displayed around the hospital site - there is a real buzz about them. They are displayed in prominent places so that everyone gets an opportunity to view them.”

A student showing one of the designs