In my last blog post, I reviewed the plans for the 9/11 Memorial Plaza;  it has since opened to provide solace and a place to remember those who were lost as a result of 9/11, in a natural setting in the middle of New York City.  To continue to write about design that addresses the human need for our connection to nature and how that connection can help us in adverse circumstances, the design genius and vision of Steve Jobs comes to mind.  How so?



With the recent passing of Steve Jobs, many people are reflecting on how our lives would have been different without so many of the products that he helped design, including the iPod, iPhone and so forth. My husband, an inveterate user and proponent of Apple computers, since the 1980″s, has often said in general, but more often recently with focus on Apple and its products, “it”s not as much what the product is, but what the product does.”

Steve Jobs and the iPod

I think all successful applied design (and in Apple”s case, it was revolutionary design) has to contain an understanding of the user, even if the user isn”t self-reflective about his or her own needs or desires.  This applies to industrial, landscape, interior and architectural design.  It becomes more challenging when there are many users, each with different expectations, views of the world, etc.  I would then say that with space design v. product design, “it”s not just how the space looks, but how we feel when we are in that space.”

And we humans come with all kinds of differences…

Cleveland Based “Wheels are for Dancing”









Just some examples of human diversity…even if buttoned-down










Now, just to be clear, it did make a difference how the Apple product line looked and the designs were perceived, and I”ve read that that was very important to Steve Jobs…


…just as the visual impact of any designer”s work is important to him/her.  But if the space does not support the users/inhabitants, or if they do not feel comfortable in the space, then the visual impact will be lessened for the user, and in some cases, become nonexistent.

So, how are spaces designed with the goal of reducing stress, helping us cope, and understanding the human condition across different populations?  With attention to the detail of the similarities that there may be in the user population, more specifically, and the human condition, in general.

To show some general examples, I think that it is human to connect with nature, even within the confines of an urban environment:

New York City Median – sunflowers-on-street-nyc-victor-rueda.jpg









NYC Bus with Greenery –







Further, landscape designers/architects have created amazing environments for helping patients and their families find solace inspiration and healing in the natural environment;  these gardens are often referred to as “healing gardens.”  In some cases these gardens have been created for patients with specific conditions;  others are for age-related groups of people.  The following quotations and images (unless otherwise noted) are from an article by the landscape architect and Professor Emeritus, Carol Cooper Marcus:

Sophia Louise Durbridge-Wege Living Garden at the Family Life Centre in Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA

“The idea that nature has a soothing, restorative effect is nothing new. From medieval monastic infirmary gardens to the landscaped grounds of nineteenth-century mental asylums, enlightened carers have recognised that access to the outdoors has a salutary effect on a person’s mental and physical health. With the onset of modern medicine and its emphasis on treatment via surgery and drugs, this knowledge was lost or deemed ‘unscientific’. High-rise construction techniques created medical settings where patients were divorced from the outdoors.”

Glendale Sanitarium Postcard dated 1911 –

“The more we are engaged with the environment through all our senses, the lower are our rates of anxiety and the less we are aware of pain. Thus, a healing garden needs to provide a multi-sensory experience with colourful flowers, varying shades and textures of green, the sights and sounds of water, elements that attract birds and butterflies, fragrances, and ornamental grasses which move with the slightest breeze.”

The children’s play garden at Rusk Institute of Rehabilitative Medicine in New York, USA


The garden at Mount Zion Cancer Clinic in San Francisco, CA, USA





(From the aricles, – written by Clare Cooper Marcus, Professor Emeritus, Departments of Architecture and Landscape Architecture, University of California, Berkeley)