Virginia Burt Designs was commissioned by University Hospitals in urban Cleveland, Ohio to create a garden of a respite for cancer patients, survivors, staff and family members, adjacent to the Seidman Cancer Center (SCC). After input sessions with patients, their loved ones and staff, Virginia Burt Designs turned to the 1924 A.A. Milne poem, Halfway Down for inspiration. “Somewhere else instead” is an apt metaphor for the suspension of daily life that those with cancer face. A garden wall separates the garden from busy streets, while windows in the adjacent hospital allow patients to look into the garden from multiple levels. Passing through the gate and into “somewhere else instead”, street noise recedes immediately, replaced by rustling leaves. Spiraling outward from the center is an accessible granite labyrinth. Intended for spiritual and physical stimulation, this multi-cursal path can be programmed by staff or used simply as a walking meditation tool.
Moveable furniture encourages gatherings or finding a shady place to reflect. A snow-melt system (using reclaimed steam) combined with illuminated LED walls ensure that the garden remains vibrant during Cleveland’s long winter months.
In creating the Schneider Healing Garden, Virginia Burt Designs balanced the patient’s need to recharge with the complex administrative requirements of a large medical institution. Remaining true to the project’s mission – to create delight for the eye and solace for the soul – the VBD facilitated patient/client input, designed the master plan, selected appropriate materials to achieve LEED accreditation, collaborated with artists, coordinated with multiple consultants, and oversaw all construction.
The Schneider Healing Garden has inspired an overwhelmingly positive public response far beyond the Cancer Center’s expectations. As one cancer survivor wrote, “As I walked the labyrinth, I became intensely aware of how this garden brings a new level of healing to my heart. I can only imagine what it will mean to people who are coming here during their long course of treatment. It is an ongoing gift to those who come back many years after treatment and find comfort for past fear and sorrow in this beautiful space.”