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  • Jennifer Jewell


Photo of a therapeutic landscape designed by the Fockele Garden Company on the cover of Therapeutic Landscapes, by Clare Copper Marcus and Naomi A. Sachs. Wiley Press 2014.



The healing power of gardens and nature is well known to almost anyone who gardens and has been recorded by gardeners, landscape designers and medical practitioners as far back as antiquity. But it is an element of cultural awareness and health care that seems to come and go with time, economic health and cultural values. As gardeners and outdoor advocates, I think we have a special understanding – intuitively – of how healing, calming, grounding and centering our garden, open space and trail time can be. And research is being done all the time around the globe to support and more specifically understand how and why this true. We talked about this at length earlier this year when we spoke with Florence Williams, with of "The Nature Fix".

This week on Cultivating Place we’re joined by Clare Cooper Marcus, a leader in the field of evidence based research, education and design of what are alternatively known as Healing Gardens and Therapeutic Landscapes. A longtime researcher into the relationship between people and their environs, including their homes and gardens, Clare Cooper Marcus is a retired professor in architecture and landscape architecture at UC Berkeley.

"While the evidence for the importance of access to nature is there - and growing - the actual provision of appropriate outdoor space in healthcare facilities is often less adequate, with limited 'green nature,' unmet needs for privacy and 'getting away,' even poor provision of the most basic needs, such as ease of access, comfortable seating, safe walking surfaces, protection from the sun, and so on."

Her unique research in one of her earlier books, "House as a Mirror of Self"- incorporates accounts of people's intimate relationships with house and home, was featured on the Oprah show, and won the Book of the Year Award from the Detroit Free Press.

Clare Cooper Marcus has spent much of her professional and academic career researching, analyzing and educating and the important relationships between human health and wellbeing and their physical environments – both inside and out. But she does not know the value of this work through the objective lens of academia alone – from her experiences being evacuated from London during World War II to her living with cancer and finding personal healing in the land she chose for her recuperation, Clare has experienced the power of place personally. After retirement and a bout with life-threatening illness, she went to live alone on a remote island in the Scottish Hebrides where she explored the landscape, reflected on her wartime childhood, read, thought about dreams - and wrote. The result was the book "Iona Dreaming: The Healing Power of Place - A Memoir" (2010).

After early retirement in the mid-90s, she also co-authored/edited "Healing Gardens: Therapeutic Benefits and Design Recommendations" (with Marni Barnes), reflecting a deep interest in the links between nature and healing, and the importance of incorporating gardens into healthcare facilities. Cooper Marcus is also a consultant, researcher, lecturer and the author, with Naomi Sachs, of "Therapeutic Landscapes: An Evidence-based Approach to Designing Healing Gardens and Restorative Outdoor Spaces " (New York: John Wiley and Sons, 2013).

Join us!

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