There is need for awareness that the mountains and rivers and all living things, the sky and its sun and moon and clouds all constitute a healing, sustaining sacred presence for humans which they need as much for their psychic integrity as for their physical nourishment.

~Thomas Berry

Thoughtfully designed healing spaces become true interventions in the medical sense, and can result in dramatically improved outcomes. Their effectiveness relates to the measurable reduction of stress afforded by connections with familiar natural environments that express messages of safety and control.

Certain common landscape approaches and features may inspire positive responses from a very broad range of individuals, and this may be appropriate, say, for a general hospital garden, where clients, families and staff all need opportunities to be refreshed and relieved. In other cases, the special needs of an individual or group of individuals with a common illness may dictate very specific design interventions that inspire certain therapeutic actions or feelings.

Peace Ranch


The Peace Ranch is a working farm in an idyllic setting in the hills of Caledon, where residents are actively involved in farm operations, animal care, market gardening and other activities. The residential program is for clients coping with schizophrenia, while day programs welcome others struggling with a wide variety of serious mental illness.

We were honoured to have been selected to prepare a Master Plan for the property, and are working with clinical staff, volunteers, management, residents and their families to understand both the clinical and operational issues, so that we can develop the landscape primarily as a healing intervention. This highly collaborative approach will allow us to program the spaces to specifically improve clinical outcomes while exploring efficiencies in farm operations. Baseline data collected in the process will allow us to measure the impact and effectiveness of the choices we make in this evidence-based design approach.

For more information on Peace Ranch and its programs:


Memorial Gardens are places made special by their association with a person or group of persons, or an impactful event. In their quietness and sanctity, these spaces should enable the visitor to connect with their inner-most feelings and memories in their own way. Good design should be restrained and un-demanding of the visitor to allow these healing connections, and principles such as rhythm, repetition and texture may be effectively employed.

World Trade Centre Memorial


This structural member was recovered from the wreckage of the World Trade Center in New York City, destroyed on September 11, 2001 in a terrorist attack. With great foresight, the local Fire Department acquired the steel beam when the opportunity arose, and it is one of only a few WTC artifacts in Canadian communities.

The extremely powerful presence of this artifact is palpable, and the design approach for its placement was a challenging exercise in restraint - to allow the piece to speak for itself. There are a number of metaphors to be found in the design for the setting: the sharp-edged bed of black granite ‘cinders’; the cool blue fescue emerging from the cinders as new life; the burnt foliage colour and shredded bark of the Ninebark tree; the purposely-selected rusted and twisted tree stakes - and all speak of destruction and survival and recovery.

I was very fortunate to have the understanding and support of the Chief, firefighters and staff for this very subdued approach.



Thomas Dean ~ Landscape Design | 416.457.8621 |

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