Therapeutic Garden Design

Grenville Ward Courtyard, Royal Cornwall Hospital, Truro, Cornwall

The Sensory Trust have been working closely with the enthusiastic team in Grenville Ward at the Royal Cornwall Hospital, Truro, Cornwall to develop a sensory rich therapeutic garden for the ward which cares for elderly post-operative patients.

The ward is at present accommodated in two single story temporary buildings with a bleak gravel courtyard between them. This at present provides the nearest place which staff can use for an informal break. There is no access to outdoor space for patients or their visitors to use. Since the ward, although temporary, could be in place for up to 10 years, the plan is to develop a design which would stand the test of that duration but might be removable / re-useable at the end of this time.

The design process began with a series of consultative exercises with the ward staff, patients and their visitors, together with other key professionals within the wider hospital community such as Site Services, Physiotherapy and Occupational Therapy.

This process involved literary and reminiscence workshops linked to ‘garden’ themes. It also included questionnaires and meetings to build up an initial brief describing the essential and preferred functional aspects and qualities of the garden space. For instance:

  • Which aspects of their clinical/care program ward staff would wish to accommodate in the courtyard space outside their buildings, e.g. individual or small group sessions with patients for relaxation and possible therapeutic rehabilitation work.
  • How could the area best serve the needs of visitors of patients?
  • How could the space best function as an amenity for the staff themselves, e.g. lunch in good weather, and if so, would they like the option to be separate from the clients and their visitors?
  • What aspects of the space would be supportive of this range of activities, e.g. sensory qualities, subdivision into different spaces?
  • How the staff would like to see the boundaries of the space around the buildings developed; is privacy an issue? Are views from the windows important?

With this information the team drew up schematic proposals for the outline design of the space, to support project funding, inspire project support and build in opportunities for further personalisation of the space.

Once these proposals received approval from within the community of the ward itself and the wider approval of the Hospital Trust, the Sensory Trust produced a design and development program and budget. This included workshop collaboration with an artist / maker to continue the collaborative working practice with the ward community and to enrich the proposals.

Design proposals for the Grenville ward courtyard

Through the tireless efforts of Maggie Trevethan and Sara Norrish at the Ward, funding has finally been secured and in November the Duchy of Cornwall Nurseries became a project sponsor and donated a tree for the symbolic starting of the project on site.

Why did we embark on the project?

The consultation and design work which we undertake in health sector environments allows us to focus in detail on the healing/ therapeutic qualities of place making, which we can translate to examples in wider public landscapes.

The project staff and partners at the RCHT have an integrated approach to the subject which encompassed other aspects of the hospital environment and displayed an inclusive view of this work as part of the wider health arts brief.

What specific things did we want to achieve?

Besides achieving an improved environment for the staff, patients and visitors to Grenville Ward, we hoped that three other significant benefits would result from the project:
1. The project would lend force to the argument for wider adoption of these principles across the hospital campus in a strategic plan of investment.
2. Links could be built with the Peninsula Medical School Teaching Hospital to monitor both the existing situation and the new scheme in terms of any data evidencing beneficial effects on the project users.
3 To achieve an integrated design solution, arising from the input of both health and design professionals, patients and crafts persons.

Photo of the team at Grenville Ward in the courtyard to be redesigned