Urban space for stressed people

Actually I can’t talk about my studying in Copenhagen without mentioning my biggest project I worked on there – a design I prepared for Health Design classes (I wrote about Health Design a bit in the previous post here).

The purpose of my work is to show how a potential restorative urban environment, where stressed and mentally fatigued people may find peace and restore their minds, could look like.

I selected people suffering from stress and mental fatigue as a group of users, because I think stress is a serious problem nowadays. Most of the people is influenced by it. Without doing necessary physical exercises, one cannot easily release from stress and that leads to considerable health complications. In addition, people being overloaded with unnecessary information, promptly become mentally fatigued, which unables them to work efficiently.

One of methods to help people deal with stress
and mental fatigue is to provide them properly designed environments, where they could spend their time and recover.

As for the area, my choice was the existing square at the Pomorska Street in the centre of Wrocław, Poland. The square is 290 m long and 38 m wide, 1,1 ha big. Its surroundings are noisy streets, residential building and several stores. At present the setting is an empty boring place, which does not show any coherency.

I used five theories, discussed during Health Design course:

1. ART – Attention-Restoration Theory (Kaplan&Kaplan, 1989)

Natural environment, containing little information to be transformed, enables people
to recover from mental fatigue. Kaplan&Kaplan (1998) specified following features of a good restorative setting:

– being away (recovering from mental fatigue requires that one be in some place other than the source of fatigue);
– extent (being a whole different world, that has its own rules and properties);
– fascination (deriving either from interesting places or processes like thinking and doing, eg. watching elements of nature).

2. Perceived sensory dimensions – PSD (Stigsdotter, 2009)
There are eight perceived sensory dimensions in green urban spaces:


The results of the research show, that the most preferred dimensions are: Serene, Space, Nature and Rich in Species, ranked in order (Grahn&Stigsdotter, 2009). I applied all of them.

3. Mental Strenght Pyramid (Grahn, 1991; Ottonson&Grahn, 1998)
People, depending on their life situation and mainly on how strong their mental power is, perceive nature very differently.Image

People coming to a healing garden represent different levels of the pyramid, therefore, we planners should design a setting in a way to please all visitors.

4. The Prospect-Refuge Theory – PRT (J. Appleton, 1975)

The locations most preferred by humans are found at interfaces between prospect-dominant and refuge-dominant – meaning a landscape containing isolated trees.

5. Selected guidelines for designing restorative environments (Kaplan&Kaplan)
– quiet fascinations – features of the site permitting reflection; coming from the setting itself – eg. sound patterns, play of light or intensity of forms and colours, and from activities – eg. watching nature and gardening.
– mystery: enhancing the desire to explore a place by applying such elements as a crooked path or vegetation partially obscuring what lies behind.

6. Soundscapes – application of sound in the landscape.

The base of the project was to establish an area offering variety of rooms, where all people could feel better, being as close to nature as possible in the centre of Wrocław.

The overall design achieved by applying crooked lines : the violet for a path and a complementary yellow-green for Miscanthus grasses and shrubs (Buddleja and Carpinus betulus)


Main division of the square and the theories implemented in the project


Rooms 1 and 2: birch grove and marshy areaImage

Rooms 3 and 4: meadow and cafeteriaImage

Room 5 and 6: playscapes and prospect-refuge space




Would you feel relaxed in this place? 😀 Have a nice weekend! 😀


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