Levy Center Enabling Garden
City of Evanston Parks/Forestry and Recreation Department, Hulda B. and Maurice L. Rothschild Foundation
The Levy Senior Center is a facility for the seniors of Evanston. At the heart of the building is a courtyard that has been developed as an “enabling garden”. The concept behind this garden is to enrich the physical, mental, and spiritual life of the seniors at the center by providing plantings, gardening opportunities, other elements, and activities that are suitable for and reinforce people’s abilities. This approach to “enabling”, or designing for people’s abilities, is in contrast to the approach of designing for people’s disabilities. The Levy Center is designed to be universally accessible. There are a number of features oriented to people’s abilities. For example, there are raised planting beds, a trellis, and a wire-frame gazebo that are all suitable for vertical gardening, either from wheelchairs or without bending over; a water feature is raised so that people can not only hear and see the water, they can reach it and feel the cool water from a wheelchair or while upright; an aromatic herb garden and other fragrant plants stimulate the sense of smell; a cutting garden provides more gardening opportunities and brings seasonal flowers into the building; a multi-purpose patio is paved with resilient rubber surfacing, facilitating safe and comfortable dance, yoga, tai chi, and other outdoor activities. These and other plantings, activities, and site elements help sustain the seniors’ physical, mental, and spiritual well-being.
Dr. Joanne Westphal, M.D., PhD, a nationally recognized expert on therapeutic gardens, was the enabling garden consultant. Wolff Landscape Architecture, Inc. was the landscape architect and prime consultant. The 8,500 square foot Enabling Garden was completed in fall 2003 for a budget of $617,500.