Bridging the Gap: Addiction Recovery

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Virginia Tech

This thesis explores the mental, physical, and emotional healing benefits of nature and the built environment to oneself. Strategically located across from downtown Wilmington, North Carolina, along the Cape Fear River, the site serves as a social and active place that promotes engagement with the natural surroundings while healing the individual. The addiction crisis in the United States is deadlier than ever. The number of overdoses, hospitalizations, and relapses is at an all-time high. Rehabilitation centers, sober housing, and transitional living programs are failing to provide the mental and physical stabilities in which patients wish for in sobriety. Most rehabilitation centers in the country create an isolated environment in which patients primarily focus on detox and therapy while being disconnected from societal engagements for weeks or months on end. Mental well-being is a prominent cornerstone of those institutions, but what about incorporating education, life, and building career proficiencies? According to the SAMHSA, "work is one of the best predictors of positive outcomes for individuals with a substance abuse disorder." Wilmington is one of the strongest addiction recovery communities in the southern region. Unfortunately, as a result, Wilmington thus faces a higher rate of drug and alcohol relapses. By providing educational resources and career-building programs, recovering addicts are better equipped to reengage in society while finding purpose in sobriety.

This thesis creates spaces for recovering addicts with programs that promote healing and provide education within a nurturing atmosphere to create a foundation for one's journey to sobriety. Natural lighting, ventilation, materiality, vegetation, and views of the landscape engage the mind and body by activating the five senses: the auditory, visual, olfactory, somatosensory, and gustatory. Winding, natural pathways on the ground create an intimate and direct interaction with the landscape, whereas the elevated pathways above the landscape create a dynamic and social interaction with the surrounding trees and nearby pedestrians throughout the calendar year. The design creates a therapeutic community that accommodates the social, educational, or therapeutic needs of each individual resident.

A transitional living development focused on being a place of learning, growing, and recovering in Wilmington generates a stronger sense of community between the recovering addicts and the city. My thesis focuses on the master plan development of the site, as well as developing the boathouse and boat building facility, where individuals learn the process of building and restoring boats. This boathouse is a safe space for collaboration and creativity; therefore, offering the tools used to exercise one's mind and body while contributing to Wilmington's historic boating destination. The boathouse is one facet of the overall master plan, providing a foundation to reconnect with the environment, engage the five senses, and find purpose beyond sobriety.
Wellness, Recovery, Nature, Senses