“The Future of Shade” Urges Designers to Consider the Future of Wellness

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Hospitals designed within the 20th century often prioritized technology and efficiency and produced functional buildings that overlooked an important aspect of patient care: connections with nature. For that reason, landscape architects like Daniel Winterbottom, professor at the University of Washington, are championing wellness gardens and their benefits for patients. As a result, major treatment centers around the world have started to reconsider green spaces — a movement that Sunbrella® hopes to further with this year’s Future of Shade competition, which challenges designers to create outdoor wellness spaces that include shading innovations. Winterbottom will serve on the competition jury.


The 2015 grand prize in the Wellness Garden category went to Mosque of Light by Nick Karintzaidis.

Wellness gardens have ancient origins, but more recent pioneers like Roger S. Ulrich first released data in the 1980s showing that patients with only a window view on natural settings recovered faster, took less pain medication and experienced better interactions with nurses. Even more recent, Winterbottom’s 2014 book coauthored by Amy Wagenfeld, Therapeutic Gardens: Designs for Healing Spaces, explains that wellness gardens provide patients with crucial holistic benefits like social interaction, distraction from stress, exercise and sense of control over their environments.


Mosque of Light

Recent award-winning designs have also embraced these ideas. The Lanserhof Tegernsee in the Bavarian Alps, a holistic health resort from Ingenhoven Architects, used natural materials and lush green spaces as central focal points. Meanwhile, in the States, the AIA has consistently recognized connections with nature alongside medical advancements in its health category. Winners of the last few years included the Massachusetts GeneralLunder Building’s unique rooftop gardens and the UCLA outpatient center, which repurposed the indoor-outdoor hallmark of modernist aesthetics for cancer patients’ wellbeing.

Wanting to expand on this specific, and important, challenge facing designers and landscape architects, Sunbrella is focusing this year’s Future of Shade Wellness Garden category on designing a courtyard or outdoor space at a facility such as a cancer treatment center. Designers will need to improve the function of such a garden by addressing practical concerns about mobility of patients and adequate seating, create an aesthetically thoughtful space and use any of the beautiful, durable Sunbrella fabrics in a shading technique that enhances the space’s tranquility and healing potential.

Now in its fourth year, the Sunbrella Future of Shade competition shows its commitment to producing the highest-quality fabrics possible and fostering their use in innovative and important applications. The competition will again offer three categories: building shade, humanitarian and wellness garden. Last year’s incredible results in these categories included large-scale shade retrofitters to make existing office buildings greener, portable and protective habitats for refugee families and a Mosque of Light intended for Dubai — an impressive structure of fabric, light and little else that won the wellness garden category.

In addition to the Wellness Garden’s more specific challenge this year, the Humanitarian category calls again for temporary shelter in warm-weather climates, and the Building Shade Challenge asks designers to address the hot daytime sun that affects Paradise Plaza in the Miami Design District. With a renovation of that plaza slated for 2016, entrants to this category will be eligible for the $10,000 grand prize money offered to all three winners from Sunbrella as well as a $25,000 commission for the possibility of their design being realized in Miami later this year.


Coraline by Marino la Torre received an honorable mention in the Wellness Garden category.

Winterbottom and his fellow judges will deliberate soon after the March 20th deadline and announce winners and honorable mentions around April 15th. Designers have until then to contemplate what shade really brings to different spaces and how they can offer a more holistic, healing and functional garden to the patients and families most in need of an affirming and restorative space.


Melody of Shadows by Zejd Kobilica was also bestowed an honorable mention.

As last year’s Jury member David Rubin of Land Collective said of the Wellness Garden challenge: “When light passes through fabric, it transforms a space. It conditions it. It tempers the human condition … Shade can change how people perceive their environment and how people are changed by that condition.” For the designers ready to show exactly how much shade and their creative thinking can change conditions, Sunbrella’s Future of Shade is offering big challenges and big rewards.

The deadline to submit to any of the Sunbrella Future of Shade categories is March 20th. More information can be found on the contest’s competition page here on Architizer.

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