A Garden for Healing

Acs2400One of my favorite gardens in all of Buffalo is about as urban as a garden can be, in a part of town only
recently getting cleaned up.  In fact, the garden’s designer told me that "That section of the city wasn’t as desirable as it is now, so we’re very proud of our
role in taking on a deserted building and bringing it back to life.

The long-abandoned 1853 building was turned into the home of AIDS Community Services of Western New York and later, with some seed money from Buffalo’s Garden Walk, this marvelous garden was created.  It’s a place for "cAcs3300lients, volunteers, staff and visitors to gather, relax, meditate, or just enjoy a quiet moment," again quoting designer John Carocci. 

And it’s amazing how much garden can be crammed into such a small ramp-dominated space.  (The group is looking for funding to remove the ramp and install a wheelchair lift in its place.)  But even with the limitations, this garden has small seating areas that somehow manage to be private.  So quiet moments and meditation look absolutely possible.Gatvc400

Let’s ask John what he has in store for the garden after that ramp’s gone. 

Lower photo taken by John Carocci from his office. 


  1. Gorgeous garden. Sometimes the renovation of just one building, or even turning just one abandoned lot into a garden can begin to turn the tide for an entire neighborhood.

  2. This is a beautiful space with a contemplative spirit.
    As a long time Zen student and designer of contemplative spaces I wonder why the wheelchair ramp is viewed as something that should be replaced with a lift ?
    Walking meditation has been a core Buddhist practice for generations.
    Most of the time I actually like it better than sitting zazen.
    I realize that those who are in a wheelchair are doing a different kind of walking, but the meditative mindfulness while in motion can be experienced in the same manner.

    The ramp appears to be at a comfortable slope and has an easy surface to both roll over and step across.
    In the garden it looks like the paths are gravel which are a poor surface for wheelchairs to maneuver across and can also be slightly disruptive in walking meditation.

    It should be interesting to learn more about how this garden unfolds and the benefits it bestows.

  3. Lovely garden, and what an inspiring story about its role in the community.

    I wonder if the ramp couldn’t be kept, but more integrated into the garden. I’m picturing vines in the ramp walls, or better yet, rebuilding the ramp walls as a living wall, with succulents and such. Perhaps some vines on an archway overhead (though I’d hate to interfere with the garden view). If nothing else, darker paint on the ramp would perhaps help it fade visually into the garden.

  4. What a wonderful way to use an abandoned property — it’s lovely and surely a place I could picture myself having a few contemplative moments. 🙂

  5. Very nice garden in such a small space. Many small space gardens look small.

    This one here is well proportioned as to evoke a sense of being in alerger area than it actaully is…very hard to do

    The TROLL

  6. Susan, thank you so much for that wonderful story – but I have to make a small but important clarification. I am the graphic designer for ACS, not the designer of this beautiful garden. That would be Christopher Voltz, and all kudos should be directed his way!

    There are some changes in store for the garden even if the ramp stays. We’re constructing a new building behind the existing HQ, so part of the capital campaign plans include commemorative brick pavers which will border the existing sidewalk from the street back to the garden. The gravel path will be replaced with the pavers. If the ramp is removed, there are a few options such as more plants or maybe a gazebo, but nothing has been decided yet.

    Again, all credit goes to Christopher Voltz. He does this as a labor of love and he’s clearly a gifted gardener.

    I’m also thrilled that you made it to our garden! We love having visitors and Garden Walk has quickly become one of our favorite weekends.

  7. Thank you for such a wonderful article. We were thrilled to be able to bring this beautiful old building back to life. The first two summers the garden was actually a lawn, but after staring at piles and piles of wonderful old brick, slate and marble, I decided to build the garden. All the old materials salvaged from the house are incorporated into the garden including hand carved marble, ceramic tile and a cast iron fireplace screen from the 1850’s.

    Most importantly, it is a garden by and for those Living with HIV and AIDS. Our clients and patients were my inspiration for building it in the first place. Every day I’d see and hear our folks in the little courtyard garden I built next door – (at our central office in a 1901 Pan American Expo hotel)
    saying things like “Oh if I could have a garden…”

    Each week I get to bring fresh flowers into the client service areas and you’d think I was handing out winning lottery tickets from the reactions we get – Such a simple act…such a powerful response. Hence the name of the garden, “Hope Blooms.”

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