As landscape architects, we aim to create spaces that people will feel comfortable in and want to use. A well-designed space will not only look beautiful but encourage us to get out of the office, car or house and get into the outdoors. As New Zealanders,
we tend to think this means a fishing trip or cycling the rail trail, but the many and varied benefits of fresh air and sunlight are easily captured much closer to home.
Heading outdoors instantly makes us feel better, and science has proven many more tangible health benefits. The importance of Vitamin D from sunlight to strengthen the immune system is well documented. We also know that regular exposure to the sun acts as a natural anti-depressant by raising serotonin levels and being outside can bring the heart rate as well as blood pressure down. Regularly indulging (and these days it can feel like a luxury) in a spot of gardening or a walk in the park has to be one of the easiest and least expensive ways to improve our overall health.
By creating inviting spaces in your home garden to relax, cook, eat and grow food, the whole family can be encouraged to venture
out to the fresh air. Maintaining your garden also has many benefits of its own. Digging, weeding or mowing the lawns is excellent exercise, releasing stress-relieving endorphins, and you’ll have something to admire while relaxing on the deck later.
For men, the magnetic effect of the barbecue is well known, and the idea of a communal space to cook can be extended to a full outdoor kitchen with fire pit, pizza oven or Kamado Joe slow cooker. Create the ultimate zone for relaxing and spending time with mates by including comfy seating, drinks trolley, and an outdoor TV. In winter, when daylight hours are low, it’s even more critical catch the sunlight when you can, and by incorporating good lighting, heating and shelter such as louvres, you can socialise outside year-round.
The pace of life means we can’t always get away from home for outdoor adventures, but with thoughtful design, the humble backyard can provide the weekend getaway you need to top-up your energy and restore, ready to face the working week.