The Redwoods, a therapeutic landscape for seniors

110725-perspectives-1For the past two years, APDW has been working on a new landscape design for the Redwoods, a senior living community in Mill Valley, California. Opening its doors in 1972, the Redwoods has provided a comfortable, beautiful, and friendly living environment for Marin County senior citizens for over 40 years. The 15-building campus sits in a serene, park-like setting adjacent to wetlands along the shore of the San Francisco Bay.

As part of a campus-wide renovation project that includes both new landscape and new architecture, we were charged with creating an environment that is not only more sustainable, but enhances the residents’ quality of life. This meant enhancing our knowledge of therapeutic design, and learning more about the unique needs of this cherished population. Our team has family members who both live and work in similar senior communities, so we made sure to tap into this valuable expertise. Most important was the integration of comments and insight from the Redwoods residents themselves.

Therapeutic design requires careful consideration of seniors’ special needs regarding accessibility, circulation, and microclimates. Going beyond this, we made sure to incorporate a variety of active and passive spaces to accommodate all ranges of mobility and activity. Active areas provide space for performance and exercise, while even passive spaces contain elements like bird houses and native habitat plants to draw local wildlife and strengthen the connection with nature.


A living wall in the central courtyard will provide herbs to touch, taste, and smell, and leaf pattern paving imprints encourage contemplations as residents explore the grounds. In addition to the native plant palette, species also included medicinal plants associated with wellbeing, and fragrant ornamentals beloved by this generation that use scent to evoke memories. The campus will also have pedestrian plaza spaces specially designed to connect the Redwoods to the public wetlands trail which surrounds the site. We expect this landscape to provide decades of enjoyment and serenity for residents and guests of the Redwoods. The project just enjoyed its groundbreaking ceremony on Feb. 2, 2014!updated-plan-grey