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Paula Horrigan and Friends
Build a Restorative Garden for Hospicare

By Jodie Carter

The "Garden of the Sun." Children helped create a "circle of life" by planting annuals, sunflowers and grasses inside a circle of pavers.

The "healing landscape" at Ithaca Hospicare was created by the long-term vision of Paula Horrigan, landscape architect and assistant professor in Cornell's Landscape Architecture Department. The fundamental mission of the system of restorative gardens is to help mediate pain, foster healing, provide intimacy, health, and well-being--to provide a means of reconnecting to life, while bringing comfort to the dying and the living.

"The garden is a bridge between the hospice and the community, to make the landscape a mediating force where people could come and volunteer and leave with a positive experience," Horrigan told LASN. The goal was to bring nature up close to the building -"creating a sense of comfort and closure, and to encourage species of native birds to bring the habitat to life", Horrigan explained.

The magical garden soothes with the calming sounds of water as it flows through an opening in a garden wall, falling into a small pond in the Spiral Origin Garden. Other garden elements include a meditation pathway, made of memorial pavers purchased by people who have lost a loved one, a bird and butterfly garden and a chapel garden.

Water falls down a block wall into the Spiral Origin Garden.

A children's garden, which can be seen from the residents' windows, developed from a program on intergenerational horticulture, where daycare-age children came to the hospice to connect with the garden and the residents. "The whole idea of the garden was to bring life to the hospice; bringing the children there was a big part of that vitality," said Horrigan. The children's garden, "Garden of the Sun," was created with the assistance of children who volunteered to help plan and plant the garden. "They wanted to plant bulbs inside a 'circle of life,'" Horrigan explained. The children planted annuals, sunflowers and grasses inside the circle, and designed stencils of deer and fox footprints that were sandblasted on to the pavers, giving them a fossilized look.

Horrigan took on the project as a community service in 1995 and it was completed in 2001. All of Horrigan's work on the Hospicare project (design, community engagement, construction and oversight) was performed probono. Funds from grants were used to support an ecological design consultant, numerous work-study students from Cornell performed construction and lots of volunteers contributed to the final project's completion.

Currently the faculty chair of the Cornell Faculty-Fellow-in-Service Governance Board, Horrigan is an advocate for action-research, service learning and community outreach. She has developed an innovative service-learning curriculum through her Participatory Community Design Studio (LA 402) where senior landscape architecture majors partner with community organizations on real projects.

Research design projects undertaken with Horrigan's students have included streetscape redesign, downtown revitalization, public park design, and "landscapes for learning" on school grounds and educational environments. Professor Horrigan's Trumansburg Main Street Design study has led to her current participatory action research project, the Engaged Community Project: Community Participation as a Cornerstone of Main Street Revitalization.

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June 15, 2019, 10:32 pm PDT

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