Resilient places?
: healthcare gardens and the Maggie's Centres

  • Angela Butterfield

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This thesis takes as its focus the Maggie’s Cancer Centres exploring for the first time the impact of their designed gardens. This research is situated within the immediate context of Maggie’s ambitions as an organisation and looks closely at their design process. It is also set within the wider debates about the effects of green space on health and the historical context of the restorative garden. By exploring both historical and contemporary examples, it argues that a healthcare garden may be a space for transformation.

Using four different Maggie’s gardens as case studies, the research seeks to investigate the role of these outdoor spaces and their impact on users. Through ethnographic and sensory methods, each garden is considered and mapped. It looks at the design brief and the intentions of the designers’, but the core work is an exploration of the experiences of staff and visitors. The focus is on the everyday use of these gardens as well as the design historiography. The experiences of gardens within healthcare are examined in order to expose the ways in which gardens, people, health and care are entwined.

Through the qualitative research process this thesis develops a new hypothesis as to how healthcare gardens may operate – offering a new definition for them as “resilient places”. Careful analysis of the data reveals the specific networks and affordances presented by these gardens. The thesis argues, based on the evidence of users, that healthcare gardens can uniquely embrace certain “essences” where essence is defined as conveying a quality or attribute. These garden essences are identified as thresholds, sensory richness, the density of time and homeliness. The thesis also argues that a healthcare garden can provide specific and unique opportunities for care and this, in turn, can enhance the healing ethos of an organisation such as Maggie’s.
Date of Award2014
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of the Arts London
SponsorsMaggie's Centres & European Commission
SupervisorDeborah Sugg Ryan (Supervisor), Michael Depledge (Supervisor), David Hawkins (Supervisor) & David Kamp (Supervisor)


  • Garden
  • Garden design
  • Cancer
  • Cancer care
  • Healthcare
  • Healing garden
  • Healthcare garden
  • Maggie's Centre
  • Maggie's Centres

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