Reducing the Incidence of Skin Cancer through Landscape Architecture Design Education Academic Article uri icon


  • There is a high and growing incidence of skin cancer associated with overexposure to the sun. Most of a person’s exposure occurs during their first eighteen years of life. While many children are taught to wear hats and sunscreen, studies indicate these are inadequate. There is a pressing need to improve the design of our landscapes to reduce exposure. Landscape architects can play a key role in driving this process, but only if they understand the factors determining sun protection behaviours among children in the landscape, and how to design for these. We introduced a systematic evidence-based teaching approach to landscape architecture students in New Zealand where the incidence of skin cancer is one of the highest in the world. In this paper, we describe the methods we used to integrate scientific information into a creative design process that included four design phases: (1) review, summary and translation of evidential theory into design guidelines; (2) inventory and analysis of existing schoolyard; (3) redesign of schoolyard; and (4) final design evaluation. We found this process was effective in developing student appreciation for the need to improve sun protection through design, for increasing their understanding of the evidential science, in addition to developing their ability to translate, often inaccessible, evidential data into its spatial form implications. Furthermore, the process led to a high degree of confidence and pride among many students as their resulting design solutions were not only supported by evidence but were often highly creative. Such evidence-based design courses are essential for preparing future landscape architects to design landscapes that significantly reduce the incidence and health effects of skin cancer.

author list (cited authors)

  • McWilliam, W., Wesener, A., Sukumar, A., & Brown, R. D.

citation count

  • 1

publication date

  • November 2020