Landscape Architecture Has Healing Powers – Menninger Clinic Grand Opening in Houston, Texas

April 12, 2012 Menninger Clinic held a grand opening of it’s new Houston, Texas, John M. O’Quinn Foundation Campus, near South Post Oak Blvd and S. Main Street. With probably three hundred plus attendees, it turned out to be a perfect day for an outdoor event, where all could enjoy the landscaped grounds that Kudela & Weinheimer designed. The weather has recently been warm in Houston, but the sun was behind the clouds and the temperature outside was nice with a slight breeze through the courtyard.

Directly in the middle of the healing garden courtyard, set up on the labyrinth, the grand opening took place under a white tent. Ian Aitken, President and CEO of The Menninger Clinic began the ceremony with a welcome speech, followed by other words of thanks and appreciation from various members of Menninger Clinic’s Board of Directors and other influential medical professionals and community leaders. As a special addition, the Lt. Governor, David Dewhurst, spoke about mental health and how it’s touched so many families including his own.

The medical buildings were designed by Kirksey Architects with a Frank Lloyd Wright inspiration to invoke a strong sense of warmth and home. Special touches reminiscent of Wright included design motifs in masonry, stained glass, woodwork, lighting, carpets and retired fabric designed by Wright were used for patient room window treatments. There are approximately 185,000 sf that have a capacity for 120 patients. Each medical building was meticulously designed for safety with clear lines of vision, quick access doors on units, custom-made door pulls, continuous door hinges, break away shower curtains and draperies, multiple patient room lighting options without electrical cords and security cameras.

In addition to the carefully designed buildings the landscaping and therapeutic healing gardens are an extremely important consideration for the medical campus. Healing gardens have been used for over a thousand years to aid in healing of mental and physical ailments; although the practice had been diminished over time as medical technology advanced in the 20th century, it is coming back as a complementary aspect to western medical technology. The purpose behind a meditation/healing garden is to provide a soothing, peaceful and relaxing place that evokes calmness, which research has proven to have therapeutic benefits. Roger Ulrich, a professor at The Center for Health Systems and Design at Texas A&M University, presented a paper entitled “Health Benefits of Gardens in Hospitals” that focuses on the importance of including landscaped healing gardens to reduce stress and provide a pleasant distraction to compliment the sterile hospital architectural presence.

650 Trees were planted on the medical site. 50 of those trees were mature. A tree spade is used to move and transplant large trees from one site to another.

The Menninger Faculty and Staff recognize the importance of including healing gardens at their facility, and carefully considered the landscape development from Kudela & Weinheimer for the site. The healing gardens at the new Menninger Clinic, John M. O’Quinn Campus, are lush landscaped grounds that are functional, maintainable and visually pleasing. With a 50 acre site and approximately $3 million for landscaping; Kudela & Weinheimer was able to conceptually design and create a cohesive and beautiful healing medical campus. The original site began as a flat, uninteresting, unwooded area that Kudela & Weinheimer transformed to have over 650 trees, 50 of which were mature “Century Trees” used in the courtyard. The smallest trees used on the site were 100 gallon.

While a healing garden must be simple, to keep the space easy to understand, it also needs to include a variety of texture, forms and color. Kudela & Weinheimer invested an ample amount of time conceptualizing the landscape for the 4-acre medical courtyard which hosts a labyrinth, berms, seating areas and meditation gardens. Custom artwork and sculptures provide a hard-surfaced interest to the healing gardens. An outdoor therapeutic saltwater swimming pool and outdoor dining arbor contribute to socialization and physical activity, which Is imperative for mental well-being. All of these landscaped pockets provide an easy to understand, soothing outdoor space with a healthy variety of sensory stimulation to aid in the recovery of The Menninger Clinic’s patients.

There are a few special and unique touches that are a part of the landscape design, including a 2-ton sculpture, “The Vital Balance,” that has been relocated from the original medical clinic in Topeka, Kansas, a sand volleyball court and a chef’s herb garden located outside of the open kitchen. Each unit also includes an open air landscaped terrace, for a more private setting. In addition to these noted special features, The Menninger Clinic Campus was also designed and built to LEED® certification standards.

Kudela & Weinheimer is proud to have provided landscape design that will assist with the healing and care of The Menninger Clinic’s program at the Houston, Texas campus. Visit our website for more medical related projects.

The Menninger Clinic is a world leader in medical psychiatric treatment, research and education.

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