Healing spaces are ones that support community health, such as a garden within a hospital setting, a beautiful park where people can meet and take natural exercise, and urban design that is designed to encourage walking and cycling, rather than being built around cars and junk food. As an example, an out-of-town district where you have to drive to go shopping or get food, is not a healing space. Also see how to create walkable communities.
Restorative Cities shows how overcrowding, noise, air pollution, long commutes and lack of daylight, can take a huge toll on mental health. With services already under pressure, the pandemic has brought home just how much urban design can affect us. This book explores new ways of designing towns and cities, establishing a blueprint from sensory architecture to place-making for creativity and community. Written by a psychiatrist and public health specialist alongside an environmental psychologist with architectural experience, this is basically ‘building for health’, a birthday book for your own planner!
If planting in public or hospital geardens, see plants & trees to avoid near pets (avoid cocoa/pine/rubber mulch & fresh compost). Use humane safe slug/snail deterrents and see how to plant a wildlife-friendly garden. Many plants (inc. yew & oak trees) are toxic to equines. Also see how to grow herbs.
If growing plants or trees for indoor settings, keep plants away from pets (cats may knock them over). Never place plants near windows, to help stop birds flying into windows. See indoor houseplants to avoid near pets (just brushing a tail against a Swiss cheese plant, sago palm or lily can harm).
Healthy Placemaking: Wellbeing Through Urban Design looks at 6 core themes to create the towns of tomorrow. Each theme looks at the problems and solutions. The book looks at how creating healthy places can bring down the number of common conditions like heart disease, diabetes, cancers and mental health problems, by encouraging walking and cycling communities, public parks etc.
How to Turn a Place Around is a user-friendly and common sense guide on how to improve our towns and cities for good public health. Organised around 11 basic principles, find short-term actions that lead to better public spaces, and tips to lead a community-based vision to improve your own neighbourhood.
Park Life is by travel writer Tom Chesshyre, who recalls 50 of his favourite urban parks from across the world, in a love letter to the green escapes, that bring joy to our cities. The pandemic taught us that we need and crave greenery, so we all went to the park. Whether in Colomobia or Korea, America or Australia – urban parks are places to find calm amid the chaos. They can also tell us something about modern life, in our frenzied world.
Precision Community Health is a book (on recycled paper) offering four innovations for well-being. This book is written by a doctor who found that treating a patient with hypothermia did little good, if the patient spent the next night out in the freezing cold. After becoming health commissioner for the city of Chicago, he was determined to find the societal reasons for disease, and focus on helping the vulnerable. This approach has led to lower rates of smoking, teen pregnancy and serious illnesses.
Building for Hope is a unique book by architect Marwa al Sabouni, who was unable to practice her profession in Syria, when buildings around her were reduced to rubble. After travelling for the first time abroad, she saw what western cities could learn from her culture, and writes what he learned from other cities – Detroit, Helsinki, Bristol and Amsterdam. The result is a fusion of thinking, on how to create peaceful and beautiful communal spaces in the busiest areas of the world.
The Healing Power of Place looks at place can be as powerful as taking tablets, mindfulness and forgiveness. What does and does not help is explored in this book, the power of place both geographically and within yourself. That’s what Orkney does for her.
How Nature Heals Communities
There is plenty of evidence that if patients have nice doctor surgeries to visit (or have views of gardens while in hospital), they get better faster. There is a lovely parable somewhere of how two patients were in hospital together. One could not see the view (so the other patient described daily views outside, to uplift the first man). When the narrator moved on, the remaining patient asked to move to the same bed. When he got there, he just faced a blank wall – the other patient had been a blind man, just describing views to help his new friend heal faster.
- Maggies Centres is a charity set up by a cancer patient (before she died) and her husband. Situated near NHS hospitals, each beautiful building has a landscaped garden where patients and their families or carers can go wait for appointments, instead of sitting in a white stark waiting room. There are places to chat, get advice (on treatment or benefits) or just have a cup of tea. Heatherwick Studio (above) is the latest project in Leeds, which has curving beams, natural light and calming wood tones, set across a space where foliage sprouts from the roofs, surrounding counselling rooms, a communal kitchen, libary and exercise room. The naturally ventilated space also boasts porous lime plaster for a naturally decorated oasis.
- Hope in Bloom is a US charity that could be emulated elsewhere. Volunteer gardeners plant beautiful spaces for breast cancer patients (female and male) so they may heal and enjoy them, when they return home after treatment.
- See the best natural house paints. These are free from the usual VOCs and toxic chemicals, which can make people feel ill, often months or years after painting a room.
How One Little Town Healed Through Community
The Compassion Project is the lovely story of a small town in Somerset, England. Local people and healthcare professionals got together to create a community of kindness, where nobody felt lonely. Through daily mindful acts of care, they achieved a ground-shaking powder, that if it came in tablet form, would be hailed as a wonder of modern medicine.
Rather than focusing on obesity, smoking and drinking – they focused on creating supportive networks to build companionships and values into the network of everyone (helping with shopping, cooking, cleaning, looking after gardens and pets, providing lifts etc). From choirs to walking groups, and from mens’ ‘shed groups’ to talking cafes. The result? When emergency admissiosn rose by 30% in the same county, they reduced by 15% in Frome, which also helped to reduce NHS costs by millions, at a time when the money was needed most.
Today so many politicians campaign for ‘more hospital beds’. But of course, not many people ask why so many are needed in the first place. Not many countries in the East have aisles of older people with dementia or arthritis or cancer or heart disease. The longest-living nations in Japan, Chile, Russia and Pakistan, regularly live to 100, and just get ill a few weeks before death.
How I Became a Tree is by Sumana Roy who writes ‘I was tired of speed. I wanted to live tree time’. She explores the lessons that writers, painters, photographers, scientists and spiritual figures have gleaned with engagement to trees from Rabindranath Tagore to Shakespear, with stunning meditations on forests, plant life, time, self and the exhaustion of being human as a ‘love song to plants and trees’ prompts you to slow down and reimagine an world where humans live more like trees.
Happy by Design looks at how good design can make us happier. Given that many people spend over 80% of time in buildings, should we not have a better understanding of how they make us feel? This book explores how buildings, spaces and cities affect our moods. It reveals how good architecture can support mental health, and how poor design has the opposite effect. Presented with easy design tips and beautiful diagrams and illustrations, this is a fantastic resource for architects, designers and students.
Health Design Thinking looks at how human design can help healthcare. An intensive care unit in a shipping container, a rolling cart with intubation equipment and a mask brace that gives a surgical mask a tighter seal. A credit card sized device to let patients generate their own electrocardiograms, a mask designed to be worn with a hijab, improved emergency room signs, and a map of racial disparities and COVID.
The Happy Design Toolkit looks at how to create good mental health through architecture. How lighting and comfort and control over our environments from nature to exercise to social interaction can impact how we feel. From living roof gardens and countering social isolations to breathe new life into landscaping and urban design. Features examples and 100 illustrations.
Schools That Heal looks at how we can move beyond schools that look and feel like prisons (and encourage truancy and fear of vandalism) to nurturing environments that are also better for learning. Access to nature, big classroom windows and open campuses all reduce stress and crime, and improve academic performance. This book looks at everything from furniture to classroom improvements, to make supporting learning environments.