Healing Environments : elements of retreat

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Montana State University - Bozeman, College of Arts & Architecture


Multiple sclerosis (or MS) is a chronic, often disabling disease that attacks the central nervous system (CNS), which is made up of the brain, spinal cord, and optic nerves. Symptoms may be mild, such as numbness in the limbs, or severe, such as paralysis or loss of vision. The progress, severity, and specific symptoms of MS are unpredictable and vary from one person to another. Today, new treatments and advances in research are giving new hope to people affected by the disease. MS is a highly misunderstood disease and due to that it is very difficult to cope with this disease. In the field of architecture we may find opportunities to fight and alleviate those who are affected by MS. There are many elements of architecture that can offer haven and sanctuary for those affected. By implementing ideas and strategies of healing environments such as sun exposure, color, or materiality we can help those affected by MS. It is believed by some that MS is the result or is aided by the body becoming out of balance for one reason or another. These "stressors" can be physical, environmental and/or emotionally based. Healing can occur only when the body is returned to a state of homeostasis or perfect balance. The human body is designed to "heal itself" once we provide the 'necessary' tools and a healing environment. Our surroundings affect our physical and spiritual self. They can contribute to stress and general malaise or balance and strengthen us. Although personal preferences differ widely, there is a level of aesthetic response that we all share. If we look objectively at this, we can understand how different qualities of environment can nurture both body and soul. The intent of this thesis is to develop a system of architectural design using technologies, methods and products that may help to alleviate symptoms and provide an immediate and long lasting sanctuary of peace for those affected by MS and their families. Ultimately, this thesis will seek to enhance the lives of MS patients spiritually, emotionally, and mentally.




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