Clare Cooper Marcus

Clare Cooper Marcus

Clare Cooper Marcus is an internationally recognized author and researcher on the psychological and sociological components of architecture, landscape design, and urban open space. From her studies she has promoted the design of environments for children, in particular by adding gardens and natural elements to outdoor spaces around schools, hospitals, day care centers, and public housing developments.

Clare began her studies at the University of London with an undergraduate degree in Cultural and Historical Geography. She continued her education with a master's degree in Urban Geography from the University of Nebraska. She then returned to London to work as a city planner. Focusing on designed environments, Clare earned a second master's degree in City and Regional Planning from University of California Berkeley. Remaining at Berkeley, she began teaching in the Department of Landscape Architecture in 1969. She is a Professor Emerita at University of California Berkeley in the Departments of Architecture and Landscape Architecture. She is also the principal of Healing Landscapes, a consulting firm that specializes in user-needs studies to inform the design of outdoor spaces in healthcare.

Clare believes that the design process begins with understanding people's behaviors, social activities, and emotional needs in order then to create appropriate physical surroundings. She especially supports the motivations and desires of children for outdoor play and feels children’s input is often overlooked by designers. She has consistently promoted shared outdoor space in medium density housing where children can play safely within sight and calling distance of home. This is especially reflected in her book Housing as if People Mattered, and in a chapter co-authored with Robin Moore in the book Biophilic Design.

Clare's six books reflect her philosophies, beginning in 1975 with Easter Hill Village: Some Social Implications of Design, which compared the designers' goals for a public housing project with feedback from the residents. For Easter Hill Village, Clare received the National Endowment for the Arts Award for Exemplary Design Research in 1983 and the Career Award of the Environmental Design Research Association in 1984.1 A deeper discussion of what homes mean to a variety of people was explored in Clare's bestselling book, House as a Mirror of Self: Exploring the Deeper Meaning of Home (1994).

Both of the books Housing as if People Mattered: Site Design Guidelines for Medium Density Family Housing (with Wendy Sarkissian, 1984) and People Places: Design Guidelines for Urban Open Space (with Carolyn Francis, 1998) won awards and are often used as textbooks in schools of architecture and landscape architecture.2 The discussion of urban open spaces includes parks, plazas, campuses, and mini-parks. A 1989 Guggenheim Award enabled Clare to research cohousing in Sweden, Denmark, and the Netherlands. Clare contributed a segment on children’s needs for outdoor play to the DVD Biophilic Design: The Architecture of Life. She has lectured and been a consultant on the social aspects of design and therapeutic landscapes in the U.S., Canada, Britain, Scandinavia, Italy, Iceland, Australia, and China.3

A comprehensive guide to the restorative power of nature and the design of outdoor spaces in a variety of healthcare settings, co-edited by Clare and Marni Barnes, Healing Gardens: Therapeutic Benefits and Design Recommendations (1999) won awards from the American Horticultural Therapy Association and the American Society of Landscape Architects.4

Clare's personal belief in the healing power of nature is further illustrated in Iona Dreaming: The Healing Power of Place (2010), a memoir of Clare's journey through childhood, her career, and her personal healing from a life-threatening illness.5

  • 1. “Clare Cooper Marcus.” Project for Public Spaces.” < > 1 Sep. 2011.
  • 2. “Previous Books.” Iona Dreaming. < > 1 Sep. 2011.
  • 3. “Clare Cooper Marcus.” College of Environmental Design, UC Berkeley. < > 1 Sep. 2011.
  • 4. Op.cit., “Previous Books.”
  • 5. “A New Book by Clare Cooper Marcus.” < > 1 Sep. 2011.