Icons of Healthcare & Therapeutic Garden Design: Clare Cooper Marcus

by Lisa Bailey, ASLA

A healing garden should be: visible and easily accessed from the main foyer, predominantly green, and should have a path that tempts you to explore and semi-private seating niches off to the side. St Joseph Memorial Hospital, Santa Rosa, CA / image: Clare Cooper Marcus

Healthcare & Therapeutic Garden Design Interview Series: Clare Cooper Marcus

Clare Cooper Marcus, Professor Emerita at the University of California, Berkeley, in the College of Environmental Design’s Departments of Architecture and Landscape Architecture, has studied and been the grand champion for healthcare and therapeutic gardens since the time of her retirement from UC Berkeley in the 1990s. She taught for 24 years and authored several books, including Healing Gardens: Therapeutic Benefits and Design Recommendations, co-authored with Marni Barnes in 1999, and Therapeutic Landscapes: An Evidence-Based Approach to Designing Healing Gardens and Restorative Outdoor Spaces, co-authored with Naomi Sachs, ASLA, in 2013. Though not a landscape architect, Clare’s interest is in the social aspect of design and in what the people who are using designed spaces think and feel about them. She combines this background with her passion for gardening in her own backyard.

The following interview was conducted at Clare’s home and garden in Berkeley by Lisa Bailey, ASLA, sole proprietor of BayLeaf Studio and a consultant with Schwartz and Associates, a landscape design-build firm in Mill Valley, CA.

How did you become THE person who studied healing gardens?

Well, of course the person who started it all was Roger Ulrich with his famous study, “View through a window may influence recovery from surgery.” Roger is a good friend and colleague and I was inspired by his work. Then Marni Barnes and I conducted the first (I think) post-occupancy evaluations (POEs) of hospital gardens.

I was further motivated when, a few months after retirement, I was diagnosed with cancer. I was treated at the Kaiser Permanente Walnut Creek Medical Center where there is a green space in the center with three ancient 150-year-old Valley Oak trees protected by law. That became an oasis for me during treatment. When people came to visit me, we would walk through the green space on balmy evenings in the summer. It was doubly important to me to have green space when dealing with the stress of a life-threatening illness. It had a very personal meaning.

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