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Cassandra Christman

Cassandra Christman

I developed a fascination with how interiors can create an atmosphere in which users feel welcomed, entertained and encouraged. I consistently work to improve my skills in aspects of design through my work life and volunteering. My intense passion for design will drive me to continue to learn ways that design can change the world.

Petrichor Healing Environment

Wounded Warriors Canada is a not-for-profit organization established in 2013. Their mission is to honour and support ill and injured veterans and their families across Canada. Although they offer a variety of programs and services, these programs are supplied through secondary organizations at different locations. Petrichor Healing Environment aims to provide veterans diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and their families the opportunity to experience physical and mental restoration. This environment would offer positive social interactions, personalized healing journeys, and an array of healing activities.

Petrichor Healing Environment

Rationale and Design Narrative

Recent military conflicts have left many veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder. PTSD remains one of the most prevalent psychiatric conditions among veterans who served or are serving within the military. "When veterans return from war they often find themselves dislocated from their loved ones and struggling to meet their most basic expectations for self and life – these challenges make it far more difficult to muster a resilient response to the trauma of war" (Finley, 2009). Research shows that although there are various services and treatments available to veterans, many refuse or drop out of these treatments due to stigma, length of programs and denial. The current model for existing rehabilitation centres for veterans with PTSD requires a re-examination which focuses on ensuring higher participation and healing through the inclusion of complementary and alternative healing modalities. An environment which allows veterans the opportunity to carve their path or journey to wellness.

Design Connection to Research

The design concept aims to place the human experience at the heart of the building design to explore the relationship between the physical environment and emotional reaction to the setting. The holistic approach of healing design is the process of restoring wholeness by creating a harmony of mind, body and spirit. Creating a thriving holistic environment specifically for veterans requires four key principles to be included within the healing design; comfort & control, social capital, experience nature and patient-centred. These principles will contribute to the overall wellness of body, spirit, and mind of our veterans at the same time promoting awareness of dignity, determination, and pride.

Character of Space

The atmosphere is one of calming serenity where veterans can comfortably participate in a variety of healing activity. Japanese's architecture-inspired references from the structured interior and Zen rock gardens, while artistic gestures, such the wood mountain sculpture, adds a nod to Canada. The overall environment at Petrichor is peaceful with a modern Canadiana twist. The modular tier seating feature throughout Petrichor ensures veterans feel protected from behind while providing a wide range of views of the space. The design of the seating was kept simple with a neutral palette and the inclusion of greenery for colour and calming effects. At Petrichor, bright contemporary art and green spaces mingle with natural architectural finishes of woods and stones to create a tranquil backdrop for each veteran's unique healing journey.

Program Consideration

Providing a wide variety of activities and freedom to create personalized healing journeys was key to developing the programing requirements for Petrichor. A combination of reconnection, rejuvenation and reflection spaces allow veterans to feel comfortable within the environment no matter what stage of healing there are in. Reconnection spaces are placed at the heart of the facility to foster socialization with peers and loved one. It was vital to ensure that reflection spaces were within proximity to social space to ensure if veterans felt overstimulated, they could retreat to a more secluded location quickly. The inclusion of a service dog kennel and training facility provides veterans with a purpose leading to the formation of new skills for re-entry to military service or civilian life. It has been proven that dogs have healing effects on humans and can be an essential tool in the healing process for PTSD.

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