Putting down the pen: non-drawing design interventions

Designing gardens for care settings can be both challenging and highly rewarding, but how do we ensure that new outside spaces are still being used in the longer term? According to garden designers Debbie Carroll and Mark Rendell of Step Change Design, non-drawing design interventions might be the answer

One of the key findings from our research project Why don’t we go into the garden?1 in which we looked at why care home gardens were not being used more often, particularly by people living with dementia, was that designers need to match their services more closely to the currently observed care practices in operation at the setting in question. In other words, we concluded that we need to focus on the organisational culture to understand how we can best support a care setting client

Since we published our research in 2016, the finding that we need to support the care culture has at times been misunderstood. We have even been misquoted as saying design was not needed at all. This is not the case, but we do need to consider our role in new ways and provide our support differently within the context of a clear understanding of the care culture at play. We call this approach to working with care (and other institutional) settings, relationship-centred design.3

Our findings hint at a greater need for flexibility in the range of interventions, both drawing and non-drawing, that the designer can support the care setting with, based on how they currently engage with the outside space. It also requires the designer to capture more data about the practices and routines at the setting, in addition to their more traditional site-based information gathering activities, at least initially. We produced a range of tools to help identify care culture practices for both designers and the care setting.2, 3

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