Taking the First Step: The Labyrinth and the World of Landscape Architecture


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Virginia Tech


Having historical, cultural, and religious roots, humans have been walking the path of the labyrinth for centuries. From seashores to cathedral floors, the labyrinth is seen as a symbolic search for one's center. The labyrinth has experienced a revival in modern life, showing up everywhere from rehabilitation centers and hospitals, to prisons and backyard landscapes across this country. The labyrinth has emerged as a form that can help humans find their internal center and place of emotional stability.

Having walked the labyrinth and believing in its healing properties, I became interested in the symbol itself. I was intrigued by the way the symbol was actually an architectural element that told the narrative of the culture that built it. While the labyrinth was on church floors in medieval times, its revival in modern times seems to be located in the outdoor environment. Since Landscape Architecture is a field based on the creation of safe and pleasing outdoor environments for humans, I chose the labyrinth as a way of looking at "experience" and "contemplation" in the landscape, and how the design(the creation of form) of this object contributes to the analysis.

Wanting to complete this analysis by actually building a labyrinth, I was approached by the Sanctuaries Unique Garden Center in Richmond, Virginia, and asked to design and build a labyrinth. Providing Sanctuaries with conceptual designs of one way paths, a final design was settled on and the project was built. The thesis will highlight the theory, design, and construction surrounding the object called a "labyrinth." c44fb6c5-1ea6-4f7d-89f1-2e62511b85f8,"Health outcomes following a traumatic event are an important aspect of recovery from any type of trauma. Further, distress and psychopathology, specifically Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), have been shown to have a significant impact on physical health recovery post-trauma. The current study utilized a sample of 56 (48 women, 8 men) residential fire survivors to examine the potential mediating effect of PTSD and PTSD symptom subclusters. Participants were interviewed four months after a residential fire and were assessed on levels of exposure to the fire (Fire Questionnaire & Resource Loss Scale), PTSD symptomology (Anxiety Disorder Interview Schedule), and somatic health complaints (Brief Symptom Inventory). Consistent with previous findings, PTSD was found to mediate the relationship between exposure to a traumatic event and reporting of health symptoms. Further, the increased arousal subcluster was found to mediate the aforementioned relationship; the avoidance symptom subcluster was found to partially mediate the same relationship. Implications of results of the current project are discussed with regard to the impact of trauma on survivors' health, along with recommendations for further research.



Contemplation, Phenomenology, Design, Labyrinth, Experience