Designing better mental healthcare facilities

Indoor ‘Sky Garden’ opens at Chelsea and Westminster

Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and its charity, CW+, have unveiled a new indoor botanical Sky Garden at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, designed by award-winning landscape designer and CW+ Artist in Residence, Jinny Blom.

The Sky Garden ‘will bring the outdoors inside, supporting the cognitive function, wellbeing, and rehabilitation of patients in intensive care. CW+ aims to improve the patient environment and experience in the hospital. The Sky Garden is part of the redevelopment and expansion of the recently opened Adult Intensive Care Unit (ICU) on the hospital’s top floor, and has been installed adjacent to the ICU, with Jinny Blom ‘creating a transformative experience for both patients and staff, where they can escape into nature and feel transported away from the clinical environment’.

Developed through consultation and design workshops with former patients and ICU staff, Jinny Blom’s idea was to create a space with multiple zones. One side of the garden is thus  more ‘active’, with a physiotherapy ramp for recovering patients, but there is also a sociable space for conversations or just some peace and quiet. There are also ‘sleep pods’, funded by NHS Charities Together, in a quiet corner for medical staff, and a ‘quiet zone’ where a patient can be brought on their bed and spend private time with family.

The garden’s design takes its cue from Modernist architecture – being very low toxin in its make-up, as it is principally timber. Furniture has a calming colour palette, and uses soft-to-touch, yet hard-wearing lino, another natural product made of flax.  Abundant planting ameliorates the air and sound quality. The tree canopy shades the garden, and the plants – chosen for their suitability to this demanding environment – will be cared for organically, without chemicals or pesticides.

Jinny Blom, who also created a Greenhaven Garden at the rear of the hospital several years ago, said: “Gardens, quite simply, improve our lives. To go and sit among plants and nature, especially in the context of a bustling hospital, has an immediate positive impact on stress levels. The Sky Garden will provide an irreplaceable source of respite to those in need”.

Trystan Hawkins, director of Patient Environment at CW+, said: “Many of our patients, especially in ICU, are unable to leave the hospital, often for prolonged lengths of time, so having this space of tranquillity and nature will be invaluable.”.

The Trust says the ‘new, world-class adult and neonatal intensive care units’ which opened last month at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital provide ‘unique patient-centred care, and the latest innovations and digital solutions to improve patient experience and recovery’.



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