Tag Archives: health

Biophilia for patients and visitors at the Khoo Tech Puat Hospital, Singapore

Khoo Teck Puat Hospital
Khoo Teck Puat Hospital, Singapore

This week I’m in Singapore as a Visiting Professor in the Biophilia Research Cluster, based in the Department of Psychology at James Cook University. I’ve seen dozens of fascinating examples of biophilic design here, but this post is about just one of them – the incredible gardens at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital.

It’s a general and acute care hospital which opened in 2010. Laik Teng Lit, its CEO, commissioned a design which lowers stress levels and helps patients and visitors to relax in what can so often be a naturally very anxious situation. The result is an astonishingly vibrant environment with dense plantings, water features, and carefully designed natural materials across the six floors of the building.

Khoo Teck Puat Hospital
Khoo Teck Puat Hospital

The hospital is keen to engage its visitors in auditing the wild inhabitants too, so it records all the many different birds and butterflies spotted on the site.

Some weekends there are free classes in yoga, tai chi, and meditation which are open to the public and take place next to the groundfoor waterfall amidst a biophilic riot of colourful plants and foliage.

And there’s another added extra. A rooftop organic community garden is cultivated and managed by local residents who grow a stunning variety of fruits and vegetables. Some of the produce is given to patients and some is sold to pay for the upkeep of the space.

Fig Tree at the Khoo Teck Puat Hospital Rooftop Garden
Fig Tree at the Khoo Teck Puat Hospital Rooftop Garden
Vegetable Beds at the Khoo Teck Puat Hospital Rooftop Garden
Vegetable Beds at the Khoo Teck Puat Hospital Rooftop Garden

Coincidentally, this week The Conversation featured an article about a rooftop garden project at a church in Sydney, Australia. This one was designed for patients recovering from mental illness, but the principles  remain the same – stress reduction, wellbeing, and general health benefits.

Giant melon in the Vegetable Beds at the Khoo Teck Puat Hospital Rooftop Garden
Giant melon at the Khoo Teck Puat Hospital Rooftop Garden

At Khoo Teck Puat we were told that members of the community are encouraged to spend time in the hospital’s social spaces. In other words, you don’t have to be sick to go there. And indeed, many students take their laptops and study amongst the flowers, whilst older people and families also regularly go to the hospital just to chill out and relax!

This is the first report on my Singapore visit. More to follow.

Technobiophilia at the Edinburgh International Science Festival @EdSciFest 16 April 2017

Technobiophilia comes to the Edinburgh International Science Festival

Sunday 16 April 2017, 12:30 — 14:00
National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh.

Why do we feel the need to unplug, or sign up for a digital detox? Join us to investigate the research and ideas behind the effects of technology and nature on our health.

Wired Nature

Join digital wellbeing expert Sue Thomas, and a panel including a psychologist and an app developer, as we investigate the research and ideas behind the effects of technology and nature on our health. We will look at the effects of wired nature on our brains, study the benefits of a natural world experienced in digital form and find out how we deal with an overload of information.

Tickets
Supported by The British Psychological Society
Source: Wired Nature – Edinburgh International Science Festival

What’s The Point Of Artificial Plants? #technature

Fake Nature

Lately I’ve felt very tempted to buy a fake tree for my apartment but there’s a tiny voice in my head warning me off. Sacrilege, it’s saying! The thin end of the wedge! Soon you’ll find yourself replacing all your real plants with plastic and your soul will wither. But, I don’t know. I really like the idea of an indoor tree, and a real one is not only expensive but, knowing my poor nurturing skills, would almost certainly die slowly and horribly over a fairly short period of time.

Leaves – Real And Fake

At the moment, a corner of my home looks like this  (right). The plants in the foreground are real but behind them is a Walplus Wallsticker picture of a tree with falling leaves scattered across the wall.  It felt like a huge risk when I first did it but the transfer was very inexpensive and could easily be taken off if I didn’t like it. But, I do like it. And maybe there’s a good reason for that…

Nearby Nature

In Technobiophilia, I wrote about the power of ‘nearby nature’ as described by R. & S. Kaplan in their important book The Experience of Nature (1989) (hard to find, check your library).

Instances of nearby nature are small suggestions of the natural world which, although seemingly insignificant and often out of physical reach, can play a powerful role in human well-being. Even the sight of a few trees viewed through a window can provide a sense of satisfaction and people with access to nearby natural settings have been found to be healthier than those without; studies show they experience increased levels of satisfaction with their home, job and life in general. Nearby nature does not have to be beautiful or complex, and you do not even have to be physically close to it to gain the benefits. It appears to be just as potent when viewed through a closed window or seen pictorially via a photograph, painting, video, or even something as mundane as a wall calendar.

The Kaplans didn’t express any opinions about fake greenery, but it seems to me that as long as it’s done well it must surely fall into the category of nearby nature.

So This Is The Fake Tree I’ve Been Thinking About

An artificial weeping fig, made from polyethylene plastic, 170cm tall. I saw it in the store, and felt its leaves.

It’s kind of fabric-y, not cool and living, and the ‘wood’ is pretty badly done. but from a distance it’s a kind of mirage of a tree.

I think I could live with it. Any advice?

Would it bring a breath of nearby nature?

Emotional Connections

There is a little-known design discipline devoted to helping us feel closer to the natural world. It’s called biophilic design and Professor Tim Beatley is one of the best-known researchers in that area. He leads the international Biophilic Cities Network.

In a recent blog post, Tending To Our Interior Nature(s), Beatley advises choosing objects and furnishings with meaningful stories, connections, relationships with real nature. He also recommends nature-themed art, explaining the personal benefits he has gained from photographs:

Nature-themed art is now commonly found in many hospitals and offices, and can both help to elicit positive feelings and jog memories of earlier nature experiences. I have framed photos of Half Dome, in Yosemite, for instance, and Monument Valley, Utah. These forms of interior nature are beneficial in themselves and enjoyable to look at, but also embody important memories and mental connections that can be activated with the slightest gaze or pondering. While not every time I look at these photos, but quite often, they have the effect of taking me back to the time and place, and sensations and family connections that I associate with those memories.

He offers lots of interesting examples of ways in which interior decor of all kinds can enhance our relationship with nature, using natural materials like water, wood and stone., although I must admit that, like the Kaplans, he makes no mention of plastic wall transfers or polyethylene trees.

Shall I go ahead and get that tree? Still can’t decide…