Elks Children’s Eye Clinic creates landscaping for all

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As the landscape architect of a sensory garden at the Elks Children’s Eye Clinic in Portland, Oregon, Mayer/Reed (Portland) envisioned ways to create a welcoming environment for children who may have limited sight.

The company investigated design opportunities for the new facility, which is adjacent to the Casey Eye Institute on the campus of Oregon Health & Science University.

This process involved asking questions of the pediatric eye specialists. The questions focused on how tactile qualities and perceptions of color could contribute to enriching the experience. They also explored how the site’s design could provide a sense of interest through color, textured surfaces and natural elements.

The team learned that people with sight and those with visual impairments can have wide variations in their interpretations of color. In response, Mayer/Reed sought to create a rainbow-colored wall in the sensory garden. There, the children could interact with the colors, whatever their interpretation.

The company commissioned a series of kiln-formed glass components from Bullseye Studio in Portland. Each of the 14 color sets contains three differently sized components for a total of 42 glass elements. The L-shaped stained glass pieces were installed on a rough-textured concrete retaining wall that leads to the building’s main entrance.

Vibrant hues create visual interest no matter the time of day, season or weather. Meanwhile, variations in texture, shape and pattern provide an intriguing tactile feel at a perfect height for young hands.

The facility, completed in the spring of 2021 and designed by NBBJ (Seattle), also houses a courtyard. The courtyard was designed by Mayer/Reed with rich textured plants and the scents of nature, providing a shaded respite space for patients, families and staff.

Anne DiNardo is editor-in-chief of healthcare design. She can be contacted at [email protected]

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