Relationship Centered Design (RCD)

What do we mean by ‘Relationship-Centred Design’? As a result of our research, we have developed a new approach for designers and outdoor specialists working with care sector clients that starts from where the care setting’s culture currently is, not from where we (or the care setting) think it should be. We are talking about a major shift in garden design and outside specialist practice: from a one-off, product-driven approach to a more sensitive, ongoing approach entailing possibly smaller design projects but over a longer time span with the care setting, matching design interventions to their evolving care culture practices and engagement levels with their outside spaces and effectively building a mutually supportive relationship with our clients. 

This also requires the designer to build in time to establish the cultural position of the home in practice, if not in aspiration, at the beginning of the consultation process. Consequently, we advise designers to understand the cultural practices at work and to build in time at the care setting as a key part of the site survey and analysis phase, observing behaviour and practices, inside and out, to establish the reality of the care culture at work. The Care Culture Map tool can help with this.

In summary, Relationship-Centred Design (RCD) is all about putting the residents’ needs at the centre of the design process, articulated by the care setting client, and interpreted by the designer or outdoor specialist. It describes a set of principles for both care setting client and outside specialist to follow to ensure that the new garden will be actively and meaningfully used and will represent good value for money, right from the beginning of the relationship.