Sensory Garden Opens in Paris

GARDEN OF THE SENSES: A sensory garden at the National Institute for Blind Youths has been officially inaugurated in Paris’ 7th arrondissement.

The sweeping 7,545-square-foot Helen Keller Garden is tucked behind a wall lining the city’s bustling streets. The green space was reworked to resemble the garden that Louis Braille, who founded the universal writing and reading system for the blind, experienced in 1843. He had been a student and teacher at that school.

More from WWD

The idea to recreate a garden that awakens all of the senses stemmed from a meeting of one of the institute’s teachers and a Givaudan perfumer, who set up a workshop together.

Plants sewn here — such as sage, lavender and miscanthus — are meant to be both touched and smelled. The garden is open to the institute’s students, as well as children being treated across the street at the Hospital Necker and the general public, on weekends.

The garden was funded by the Givaudan Foundation, Christian Dior, La Ferthé, and subsidies from the Ile de France region and ARSL Ile de France Regional Health Agency.

The Helen Keller Garden is symbolic of the school’s aim of integrating its students in the outside world, according to Stéphane Gaillard, the institute’s director, at a conference Tuesday night.

“There is a real dialogue between the institute and the world,” he said.

Inside the Helen Keller Garden.
Inside the Helen Keller Garden.

Keller herself began learning words in a garden as a blind and deaf child. It is believed she also walked in the institute’s garden during her visit in 1952 to the Louis Braille Center.

“Helen Keller is a woman symbolic of perseverance, but also determination,” said Rachida Dati, mayor of the 7th arrondissement. She thanked descendants of Braille, who were in attendance, as well.

“He has inspired thousands of students to pursue their dreams and never give up,” she said.

Dati called the garden “a place of appeasement, of retreat, of humanity.”

Best of WWD