Nov. 17, 2015

The William P. Clements Jr. University Hospital, which opened last December at the University of Texas Southwest Medical Center in Dallas, recognizes patients’ needs on the hospital grounds, as much as inside the building itself. While cutting edge technology such as videoconferencing in each patient room enhances communication between members of a patient’s care team, the landscape is incorporated in a way that meaningfully recognizes the role of nature in aiding recovery from physical ailments.

Funded by Dallas philanthropist Margaret McDermott, the tree-laden landscape was designed by Peter Walker Partners landscape architects, the firm that designed the National 9/11 Memorial in New York City. 

Like those involved in the vision of the UTSW hospital, more people in the medical industry are acknowledging the presence of trees and plants plays a strong role in both physical and mental wellbeing. A study in Science, examined this in a hospital setting and found that patients with views of natural surroundings, healed a day faster, needed significantly less pain medication and had fewer postsurgical complications than patients in rooms facing brick walls. Studies like this suggest that trees can help care facilities like hospitals and treatment centers actually serve their patients more effectively, improve their health outcomes, and increase patient satisfaction.

The UT Southwest Medical Center described the Clements hospital landscape as a “milestone in defining the role of the physical environment in the hospital of the 21st Century.” The result is a visually appealing and emotionally comforting outdoor environment. The plaza at the main entrance to the hospital is located near the corner of Harry Hines Boulevard and Plantation Drive and functions as a bridge between the outdoors and the indoors. Surrounded on three sides by the hospital building, it includes nine bald cypress trees that emerge from the paved surface, with tables and chairs inviting patients and visitors to pause and enjoy the landscape. The nine trees on the plaza carry over the geometric arrangement of the trees in the meadow, aligned to provide view corridors from the hospital as well as drivers passing by on the road. 

Over the years, these trees will mature and provide an increasingly restorative environment for all who visit the facility. With the careful design of this new facility, the University of Texas Medical Center has positioned itself at the forefront of collaborative, creative and thoughtful patient care. 

The trees at UT Southwest hospital are planted in a suspended paving system called Silva Cells, which are designed to provide trees with the soil they need to thrive and grow for many decades. Courtesy of DeepRoot.


Health benefits of gardens in hospitals

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