The EFA Design Champions awards program was launched this spring to recognize the individuals who are advancing the design of senior living environments, those who have fought for design solutions that make a meaningful improvement in the lives of residents, staff, or the greater community. The winners will be recognized during an awards luncheon at the 2019 EFA Expo & Conference in Salt Lake City. Read more about them in the Summer 2018 issue of Environments for Aging and here online in extended interviews.

Scott Weaver
Director of campus services, Garden Spot Village, Lancaster, Pa.

Scott Weaver was an independent landscaping contractor who consulted for Garden Spot Village when it first opened in spring 1996. By fall of that year, he was a full-time employee and has led the CCRC’s in-house landscaping department ever since. Located on a 225-acre campus, Garden Spot includes 27 single-family homes, 238 cottages and carriage homes, and 304 apartments serving approximately 1,000 residents. Through the years—and many expansions of the community—Weaver has led landscape design and planning and served as liaison between contractors, staff, and residents on projects. He’s described as being instrumental in the development of outdoor spaces that attract people to meet, gather, and create community. Additionally, he’s embraced the mission, values, and culture of Garden Spot and translated it to his work—for example, managing the community’s aeroponic greenhouse where he grows fruits and vegetables to support its agrarian lifestyle and commitment to farm-to-table food service. Additionally, Weaver oversees an on-site nursery where he grows planting materials and trees to be used in coming years to further enhance the beauty of the site. He’s guided by a view that outdoor landscaping should be a natural extension of the community’s interiors, a space that establishes a sense of home and pride in where one lives—including a desire to share it with others. The result is a campus that’s a destination for the larger community, too, serving as a setting for everything from high school prom photos to marathons to family reunions, establishing a true multigenerational environment.

Environments for Aging: We’re told you understand how to create “a great good space.” What does that mean for you and Garden Spot Village?
Scott Weaver: A “great good space” needs to be inviting. People need a reason and an incentive to come into the space and spend time. They have to want to be there. We incorporate a variety of things that stimulate the senses, whether it’s sight (flowers, trees), sound (water features), smell (flowers, herbs), art, or calming pieces (kinetic sculptures). We like to mix up the sensory stimuli with different themes and focal points in different parts of the campus. Different things appeal to different people, so we work hard to create spaces that feel welcoming but varied.

For example, we’re working on a bird watch area in a part of the community. It’s slowly evolving, but we’ve planted trees and shrubs that provide a welcoming environment for birds. Also, our Legacy Garden is our “central park” for the community. A labyrinth, swings, water features, and more create a space where people gather and share life.

I’ve always felt fortunate that the Garden Spot Village board and leadership have given us full license to develop the landscaping in a welcoming way. We were never asked to cut budgets or corners. Our mission is this: “We will enrich the lives of older adults as an expression of Christ’s love.” We do this through creating outdoor spaces that support interaction and community.

Also, one of Garden Spot Village’s core values is innovation. We’re encouraged to explore new ideas and innovate everywhere. This approach to continue innovating keeps both staff and residents open to new ideas and, in the end, keeps us younger! For example, the annual Garden Spot Village Marathon and the fact that we host Pedal to Preserve (a fundraiser to protect farmland) encourage residents to participate in events and activities they wouldn’t have otherwise considered.

How do you approach design to create spaces that are destinations and build community?
A comfortable environment will naturally encourage social interaction. If people feel good in a space, they will come back, they will spend time and share life together there. One specific outdoor space that gets a lot of traffic on our campus is the Legacy Garden, and specifically the swings. People will come to swing and enjoy the water feature.

The location is critical. It needs to be easily accessible, with proximity to living spaces, and give residents the ability to watch the activity of the larger community from a comfortable distance. To allow the area to be used comfortably for a greater portion of the year, we also consider and provide shade, windbreaks, etc.

Most recently, you shaped the landscape design at Garden Spot’s newest site, Sycamore Springs. What was your role on the project and what you were able to achieve?
My role within the Sycamore Springs project was to take the model and the concept we had set in place and to bring it to life. It was interesting, because while we had a very specific model, a lot of people visualized the final product in a lot of different ways. I worked from the landscape architect’s drawings and also from the notes we took at similar communities we toured. The community includes porches and walkways designed around a village commons, to promote neighborly interaction and visits. Vehicle access, garages, and streets were located at the rear of the cottages to minimize impact on outdoor living space. Each cluster of homes has about 15 dwellings around a common area. Additionally, each common area has a community building and outdoor gathering spaces.

I received feedback from contractors, residents, staff members, and others and applied their responses to create the final result, which includes comfortable outdoor community patios where people can host friends and families. Landscape and site lighting is designed to be pleasant and soft but still provide an adequate feeling of safety and security. LED bollard-style lighting is used along walkways around the commons and adjacent to the front porches instead of pole lighting. Tall plantings and hedges are used sparingly to maintain an open and secure landscape. Each front porch is intended to be a welcoming place for people to gather and visit, with larger patios available for special events or larger groups.

What does a successful landscape design look like to you?
It’s one that people naturally gravitate toward, whether it’s consciously or unconsciously. People like to be there—they just show up. That is the result of good design.