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NHS Chase Farm Hospital 

Adelaide Ward for Alzheimers and Dementia

NHS Chase Farm Hospital - Adelaide ward

Project Value: 92k
Build Time: Consultation, design and planning: 8 months; build time: 10 months.

Size of Project: 272 sq m 
Awards (nominations, shortlists and wins):

· Gold Medal for Best Public Building Gardens

· Reference garden status for hospital therapy

· National press coverage including ‘The Guardian’


The Brief

The Royal Free Charity & NHS Trust’s brief was for us to create a specialist garden tailored to the needs of patients being treated for Alzheimers and Dementia.  To create a garden design that best reflected and supported this group’s unique needs, we devised and held a series of in-depth workshops with key staff and patients at the hospital, as well as a group visit to the Hogeweyk Dutch Dementia village in The Netherlands.


The Challenges

One of the key challenges we faced during this project was the logistics of working in the middle of a hospital environment - the gardens are situated within internal courtyards with wards leading directly onto them.  Our only access in and out of the gardens was through a main walkway into the hospital; we were therefore required to satisfy all the relevant health and safety requirements, provide method statements and risk assessments as well as ensuring sound pollution and patient privacy was maintained at all times.

Under these conditions, we did not have the ability to use a mini-digger. That meant that all existing planting and paving had to be manually removed by hand from the gardens. Funding continued to be raised throughout the duration of the build and much of the unskilled labour force was from staff kindly donating their time from companies including Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Metaswitch, Santander and the Masonic Charitable Foundation.

Over 200 working drawings were produced to ensure the correct placement of electrics, paving, planting beds and working around a dozen existing manholes that served the hospital site within the courtyard garden created many challenges.

Care of patients with Alzheimer’s disease / Dementia

Dementia is a long-term condition which has a high impact on a person’s health, personal circumstances and family life. A number of studies have shown the benefits of therapeutic gardens and horticultural activities for patients with dementia.

When people with dementia can freely use outdoor areas, agitation and aggression are reduced, independence is promoted and there is an increase in memory recall. 

Tracy Goodman, urgent care matron, said: "The dementia garden is designed to be a trip down memory lane. The idea was always to create something that would help to stimulate patients."


Dementia / Alzheimer Patient Care  – Our Design Philiosophy

This garden utilizes an organised and geometric layout, symbolising the desire to assist patients in bringing more order to a fragmented mind.  We designed the courtyard garden on a grid that referenced itself to the structure of the surrounding building.


As it is important for people with dementia to be able to ‘exercise’ their memory, we created a `Memory Street’ within the garden that uses colour, scent and visual stimulation to evoke memories from their past.  We depicted an ‘old fashioned’ street from a post-war era, complete with period shop fronts, street lamps and even a real Mini. This enables residents to reminisce and remember their past, whether that of their own gardens, neighbours or gardens from abroad on holidays; invoking memories from different sights, colour schemes and floral scents.  


This `Street’ leads into a number of differently `themed garden’ scenarios, in which the diversity of planting and hard landscaping materials allows the gardens to have a wider spectrum of appeal that triggers different aspects of the patients’ memory.

Lush shady area with Dicksonia antartica with fragrant planting such as sarcococca, skimmia and osmanthus x burkwoodii.

a.       Pink garden centred around the circular paving

b.      Wisteria walkway with colourful clematis & fragrant honeysuckle.

c.       Mediterranean themed garden with a cascading water fountain sitting on a circular resin bound base with anchored by four Cupressus sempervirens and mediterranean planting.

d.      Art Deco inspired garden with lawn and white rendered walls.

e.      `Hot’ Red border at one end of the `Street’ with Callistemon, hemerocallis 'stafford' and a Red Post Box

f.        Cool yellow border at the other end of the `Street’ creating a focal point.

g.       Centrepoint of the garden is the Mini and zebra crossing.

h.      Streetside planting with Lavender and various other planting schemes.


Due to the patients’ ability to respond to bright colours, garden furniture was commissioned by a specialist manufacturer and brightly powder coated, along with shop fronts that add to the feeling of a vintage street with a post office and post box.


An old 1970’s Mini was sourced and the staff and students of Barnet & Southgate Technical College embarked on stripping it back, cutting in half and refurbishing it with a lovely bright Union Jack paint job so that it could take pride of place at the centre of the garden by a zebra crossing.


The garden stimulates the senses and helps patients and staff experience areas to relax whilst invoking their memory recall and assisting in their care.

Photo Credits: All Photos by Tectonic & David Bishop, UCL Health Creatives




The gardens were funded thanks to an appeal launched by the Chase Farm Charity, part of the Royal Free Charity. The support was overwhelming and donations came from over 200 individuals, community groups, businesses and hospital staff. Supporters skydived, trekked, climbed Snowdon and put on events.  Over 120 individuals volunteered giving up 865 hours of their time, many returning more than once.



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