Matera – a co-design project investigating how natural therapy can be taken home

The group behind the designproject Matera Lisa, Sara and Simone explains:

After our first talk with the project manager in Terapihaven Møllebæk, we just thought “Yes! It’s just us!”

Terapihaven Møllebæk in Kolding works with nature-based therapy for e.g. stress, where they offer group therapy courses in the garden for 12 weeks led by trained therapists. Nature has a very special ability to give us humans peace of mind. And working with people through using nature was something that appealed to us a lot!

The participants meet weekly in the therapy garden, where they gather around the fire, the heart of the garden, where they are led through exercises focusing on body awareness and senses, after which they have time to walk around the garden and find a safe place to sit for themselves.

One of many fieldtrips in order to understand the atmosphere and the garden.
This was very important for our collaboration and in order to create relevant co-design workshops

Our research showed that when the participants  enter the garden they can feel the calmness surrounding them, and when they walk out of the garden, it is almost like a calmer and more clarified version of themselves.

We created a dialogue tool to investigate what possible challenges could be addressed in our project.
This tool used visual elements to guide our talk with the project leader of the therapy garden.

The biggest challenge for the participants in the therapy garden was that they only went to a therapy session once a week, which left the participants with 6 days at home – without the therapy and without nature.

It became the challenge we chose to work with in our project. We asked the question:
“How can we support the process in the therapy garden, which focuses on senses and body awareness, by creating something that can be taken home?” 

Through several co-design workshops with therapy participants in the Therapy Garden, we gained a greater understanding of what the garden’s many properties were as a framework for treatment. We did experiments where we used nature’s materials as tools for reflection and communication. For example, we used clay to understand how the participants use their senses in the therapy garden. 

One participant explained
her clay figure this way:
“… I sat up on a tree and then I felt as if
the tree suddenly had lots of arms out
to the side and I had just asked for a
hug and saw all the little arms around

Workshop named ‘reflecting through the hands’ which opened up thoughts about the sensations of the garden

Together with the participants, we experimented with how to take home a small part of the garden’s physical and sensual properties. For each workshop we created a probe kit for the participant to bring home and use during the week.
In the next workshop we would talk about what they gained from it. This way we sustained their participation in the project, not only when they were present in the garden, but also in their homes.

Medallion probe kit that help the participant imprint their surroundings at home.

One of the probes contained a stone with a red spot on one side and a blue spot on the other. We asked the participants to take the stone home and use it to reflect on the situations in which they felt stressed (the red side) and the situations in which they felt calm (the blue side). The last time we met with the participants, one participant told us: “I have kept the stone in my pocket, and when I feel the stone, it helps to remind me that I just have to go out and find peace and time if I feel a little pressured”.

The stone itself became one of the final designsolutions that help the participant take home
the qualities of the Therapy garden.

As design students, all three of us agree that it has been very rewarding and educational to collaborate with such an inspiring place as Terapihaven Møllebæk. Both the employees and the participants have had confidence that together we could create something meaningful through a design process. We are very happy that they dared to give us space to unfold our design workshops and experiments there.

I have learned a lot about planning and holding workshops, it’s cool, but definitely also something you have to train in. And you do that best by daring to jump into it

It was very special to develop a design project together with several different disciplines, and see how it can heighten a project when you find a way to share your worldviews. I learned a lot, I think we all did.

The project focused on involving partners in the project through workshops. In the course I learned to plan and lead workshops as well as to design relevant material in a short time. I think it was good to be in a design process working closely with the users

You can find more about the project here:


Lisa has a BA in Textile Design from KADK and is doing her MA in Design for People at Design School Kolding.
Contact Lisa at:

Sara has a BA in Industrial Design, and is doing her MA in Design for People both at Design School Kolding.
Contact Sara at:

Simone has a BA in Psychology from Aarhus University and is doing her MA in Design for People at Design School Kolding.
Contact Simone at:

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