Gardens planned for healing, relaxation and respite

September 21st, 2010

Stanford Medicine,

Where there is now a large parking lot, a concrete sidewalk and chain-link fences, Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital plans to introduce a showcase landscape with a parklike setting where patients, visitors and staff can relax and play, rest and renew.

Situated near the corner of Welch and Quarry roads, the hospital’s proposed Emerald Garden will feature an open lawn, children’s play area and stone retaining walls. Adjacent walkways lined with heritage redwoods and oaks will allow passersby to stroll on shady paths or read on benches set back from traffic.

These outdoor environments are part of the extensive landscaping plans that have been integrated into Packard Children’s expansion in the Stanford University Medical Center Renewal Project. The project also involves construction of a new Stanford Hospital and the replacement of outdated facilities at the School of Medicine.

“Packard really embraced landscape as a central design concept,” said Zachary Pozner, project manager for planning design and construction at Stanford Hospital & Clinics and Packard Children’s. “Nature is a theme that is integrated throughout the building design.”

In a setting traditionally rife with stress, Packard Children’s planned network of gardens will add more than three acres of greenery, connecting the new facility to the existing one while providing a backdrop of calmness and serenity.

Designed with attention to the demands of security, comfort and safety unique to a hospital setting, each outdoor area will incorporate plants and amenities that reflect its intended use.

“A key challenge has been to make sure that there are garden spaces that will cater to the wide-ranging needs of the patients and their families, and visitors and staff,” said Jacinta McCann, executive vice president of planning design and development at AECOM, the project’s design firm. “Siblings of a sick child need areas where they can let off steam, parents need areas where they can take a break, and staff need areas where they can regenerate. All of these needs have been taken into account.”

Courtyards and roof gardens will be easily accessible and allow natural light to filter into the corridors. Window boxes will be placed outside every room, so a patient confined to bed will have a view of flowers set against the sky. The same type of stone used in garden walls will be used indoors to mirror the relationship between the interior and exterior of the building.

Some areas will be dense with regional flowers, while others will feature native and drought-tolerant plants, including grasses, shrubs and trees similar to those in the university’s neighboring arboretum. The landscapes also will provide habitats for local birds and insects.

McCann said sustainability has been a driving force behind the design, which incorporates green roofs, low-water demands, a cistern to store rainwater and the use of native plants. “Everything from selection of plant material and retention of trees to the form and functionality of the gardens is customized to the ecological setting of the site, the climate and the users,” she said.

The designers worked closely with different groups to develop the concept and incorporate elements compatible to the university, as well as the California climate. Heritage trees have been preserved, and more than 20 protected oaks and redwoods will be relocated to a new site that will provide better growing conditions, Pozner said.

“We have tried to create a real balance of landscapes,” he added. “For the children and expectant mothers who come to Packard Children’s, the gardens will be a retreat where they can savor the sights, smells and sounds of nature.”