Healing Gardens as Transformative Spaces

In the labyrinth with Air (one of the four sculptural elements) at Schneider Healing Garden at University Hospitals Seidman Cancer Center image: Brad Feinknopf
In the Schneider Healing Garden’s labyrinth at University Hospitals Seidman Cancer Center in Cleveland
image: Brad Feinknopf

Below is an excerpt from the article “‘It’s Somewhere Else Instead’: Healing Gardens as Transformative Spaces,” published in the Canadian Society of Landscape Architects’ LANDSCAPES | PAYSAGES magazine. To read the full article, visit CSLA’s website and see volume 16, number 2, pages 20-23.

Healing gardens are intentionally designed to provide a physical space that supports people who are dealing with disruptions in their lives that make the present confusing and the future uncertain. Whether a person with a challenging health issue, a loved one, or a caregiver, one is waiting in liminal space, suspended at the threshold of new experiences.

The Fractal Gate, creating a liminal gateway into the Schneider Healing Garden  image: Brad Feinknopf
The Fractal Gate, creating a liminal gateway into the Schneider Healing Garden
image: Brad Feinknopf

When a healing garden is designed specifically to attend to this dynamic and exponential shift for people, it becomes an important space—a space for potential transformation. The Schneider Healing Garden at Seidman Cancer Center (SCC) is one such liminal space, located at the threshold that separates SCC from the vibrant city at the door. The overall concept for the garden as liminal space is lightly summarized by Christopher Robin’s poem called “Halfway Down”:

Halfway up the stairs
Isn’t up,
And isn’t down.
It isn’t in the nursery,
It isn’t in the town.
All sorts of funny thoughts
Run around my head: it really isn’t
Anywhere!
It’s somewhere else instead!

–A.A. Milne (1924)

by Virginia Burt, CSLA, ASLA

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