At the very beginning of my career I was engaged in the rebuilding of the oncological clinic at Lund University Hospital. Of tradition hospital premises resemble parks with scattered buildings surrounded by large trees with pleasant little gardens in connection with the buildings. Old and time-honoured ideals lie behind the design; fresh air, sunshine, trees and greeneries are beneficial for the patients’ health and recuperation. This seems sensible; it has been statistically proven and nowadays also demonstrated in recent research reports. Nevertheless, these environments are in a state of constant change towards condensation and rationalisation. In the end the budget, or the grounds, will not allow any room for trees. Nor are plants allowed close to the walls for hygienic reasons. Continuous retrenchments result in an impoverished outdoor environment deprived of plants and other “unnecessary” things that stimulate the senses.
Everything should be as practical and as easily managed as possible.
The oncological clinic went against this trend. The staff and those in charge of the rebuilding project wanted a humane and pleasant environment with a garden. The patients who were coming here for examinations and radiation therapy were ill, and everything that made it easier for them was welcomed. The answer was one garden inside the house and one outside, both of them luxuriant and bubbling over with life. Two ponds were installed in the outside garden, and the flat ground was landscaped to create an undulating effect. The undulating grounds serve as a framework for the garden and make it more exciting, but they also have room for more plants. Just as wrinkled skin has a larger surface than smooth skin, hilly grounds are larger than flat ones. You really make the principle work for you if you make the hills as high and steep as possible. At the same time, if the hills are too steep precipitation will erode the soil and the vegetation. The undulating grounds outside the oncological clinic are the origin of the billowing silver landscape of Metamorphosis.
I drew a section through the clinic and the garden, and I named the project “The House in the Woods – The Woods in the House”. Everybody loved the drawing of the vegetation, perhaps also the idea. They liked the picture of the luxuriant plants and pinned it up on their notice boards. Still, the idea of having natural sceneries both outside and inside was close to being discarded. Rocks can remind people of tombstones and death. Ferns can remind people of churchyards. You can be allergic to India-rubber trees. Wouldn’t plastics be better here? No plastic plants were acquired, however. Moreover, you only get an allergic reaction to India-rubber trees if you rub against the bark for several hours a day, which neither the patients nor the staff should be doing. Everybody appreciated the lush gardens once they were in place. I was asked to continue working with the same ideas for the outdoor environment of the next major extension of the hospital. However, most of the area was eaten up by parking spaces for cars even though a multi-storey car park had just been erected. With only small plots of land you cannot create hills.