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Sonja Johansson, FASLA
Johansson Design Collaborative
9 Old Concord Road
Lincoln, MA  01773
Phone: 781-259-9701






The Rusk Children’s PlayGarden for Interactive Therapeutic Play

Rusk Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine, NYU Medical Center, New York, NY



1999 American Institute of Architects: Certificate of Merit: Architecture for Education Design Award for Exemplary Learning Environment

2000 New York City ADA Achievement Award

2001 Boston Society of Landscape Architects Merit Award

2003 Adaptive Environments: Excellence in Universal Design Great Places Fit for People Award

2004 American Horticultural Therapy Association: Garden Design Award


Children’s rehabilitation hospitals have traditionally relied solely on indoor therapies that target a limited range of patient needs. The team of therapeutic professionals at the Rusk Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine wanted to challenge their young patients within a supportive and Nature-oriented outdoor environment. We transformed a tiny, flat, urban lot into an exciting and educational multi-level environment for physically and mentally disabled children. It is now a lush naturalistic environment of undulating lawns to lie on, exercise on, smell and feel; sand to dig in bordered by rocks and covered with a trellis with climbing morning glories, planting areas for children to hide in or watch butterflies, plant flowers and watch their tomatoes turn from green to red.

Our custom-designed play equipment is fully integrated with natural processes and features - promoting curiosity, creativity, and independence. Therapies that were perceived as work when they were conducted indoors are now perceived as play when exercised by patients and caregivers in the outdoor PlayGarden. Free from the confines of the rehabilitation hospital, children eagerly improve their skills in the fresh air and sunlight.


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