Connecting people to the outdoors

My time spent with the Garden Club of Virginia and in my Fellowship was made meaningful through the people I encountered in telling the story of the Western State Hospital. I was able to open a dialogue with some of the site’s current users, with past physicians and their family members, and share the story widely in my graduate studies.

Getting lost in libraries throughout the state opened up a perspective of the Western State Hospital that was rooted in the history of its landscape and the impact that the deliberate physical plan and campus layout had on patients (both positive and negative). The work taught me a great deal about places that are designed for healing both in practices from the past and today.

I approached the study with some apprehension, in how does one address and honor sites that have been stigmatized in the past? The answer for me, was to thoroughly understand the intentions and context of the times. This project provided me with far more insight to carry with me than I can ever express in a document. I hope that my study will help others in understanding complex sites, and it has already been a great influence in my career. As a landscape architect, I now carry a commitment with me that is based on connecting people to the outdoors and the health benefits that our environments provide. Landscape is inherently healing, and it is my responsibility and mission to share the benefits of nature widely in all that I do.

Ashley Allis, 2011 Favretti Fellow
Old Western State Hospital, Staunton

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