Designing a healing landscape for recovering service members
The Walter Reed Army Medical Center was relocated to the Bethesda Naval Hospital campus in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, D.C., to create the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center at Naval Support Activity (NSA) Bethesda. New facilities include barracks to house wounded warriors and their care providers during their rehabilitation at the hospital as well as exterior improvements to adapt the campus to a significant population of service members returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with traumatic war injuries.
Adapting the exterior environment of the NSA Bethesda campus to an influx of wounded service members undergoing rehabilitation required innovative responses to a wide range of landscape-related issues, including preservation of the historic landscape fabric; location of stormwater treatment areas for new development; forest and stream protection; and creation of accessible outdoor spaces that would have a positive effect on healing and recuperation. Efficient communication with stakeholders in the high-intensity atmosphere of a military hospital coping with two active wars posed additional challenges.
WSP used an evidence-based design approach to develop the Wounded Warrior Area Plan, a landscape master plan that addresses the health and well-being of recovering service members by emphasizing the following types of landscape improvements:
- Measures to ease movement around the installation for a user group that includes amputees learning to use a range of mobility devices and prosthetics.
- Enhancement of opportunities for peer support in social and recreational spaces.
- Increased access to nature and its healing potential.
- Integration of purposeful and meaningful activities for recovering service members, their care providers, and medical staff.
- Evidence-based design identifies compelling, scientifically credible evidence for design measures that genuinely impact clinical outcomes.