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Unformatted text preview: t al., 1991). In natural
environments such as parks and gardens, people are able to react to and trust their reflexive
and emotional reactions to their surroundings (ibid). There are reflexes and feelings that
warn us about dangerous environments, for example, environments with steep slopes, those
that are narrow and dark or dry and lifeless (ibid). At the same time, there are other reflexes
and feelings that attract us to open, light environments with access to water and vantage
points (ibid). For humans, the city constitutes an unnatural environment in which we cannot
trust our reflexes and feelings.
Modern city environments may be so unnatural as to cause us to more easily experience
stress reactions while in the city, whereas natural environments allow us to relax and rest.
Another theory claims that the higher cognitive centers of the human brain are able to rest
when we are out in natural environments (Kaplan & Kaplan, 1989). This is because the 11 brain is capable of two types of attention: directed attention, belonging to the higher
cognitive centers, and soft fascination, linked to the old parts of the brain (ibid). In natural
environments, the higher cognitive centers can rest, while the old part of the brain is
stimulated, giving us restorative experiences. Untidy environments make us tired, while
clear and easily read environments give us rest. We also need mild stimulation in order for
rest to be healing, and such stimulation may be found in certain natural environments (ibid).
The experience of stress, however, is something quite natural. Stress reactions are
fundamentally the same reactions that once, at the beginning of human history, helped our
forefathers survive by preparing the body for fight or flight. Today, instead of fighting or
fleeing, we experience stress. For this reason, it is important that city environments offer
opportunities for recovery from stress in the form of, e.g., parks and gardens (Asp, 2002).
Starting from an evolutionary perspective, some scholars (Herzog et al., 1997; Appleton,
1996; Ulrich 1993; Coss, 1991) consider that, in order to survive, primitive humans had to
be able to read in nature the possibilities and obstacles of the environment, so-called
”affordances” (Gibson, 1982). Moreover, they believe that this cognitive function still
operates in us today. Thus, we experience as restorative natural environments that send
messages of security. These theories indicate the need for conscious design, as all natural
and garden environments are not experienced as good, secure and restorative (Ulrich, 1999). Literature on theories of design of healing gardens
In the almost five-thousand-year-old work The Epic of Gilgamesh from Mesopotamia, the
historical king sings his song of praise to a magnificent garden of paradise. In the garden,
King Gilgamesh finds comfort and strength after the sorrow he experienced at the death of
his friend. The work is considered the world’s oldest preserved epic (Olsson &...
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