Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Steve Cooke

Co-Major Professor

P. Night Martorell


domestic violence, architecture, art, space, women


My interest in the environment has led me to study the effects of space on people, both natural and man-made. This project explores how architects and designers can design spaces conducive to the healing process. The emphasis of this thesis is on my design methodology, with the hope that this project will help other designers in their struggle to create spaces that heal the body, soul and spirit.

To develop this project, I chose a shelter for battered women as the building type. This shelter is theoretically located in Bayamón, Puerto Rico. Its main goal is to create an environment in which battered women can recuperate physically, emotionally and spiritually.

In order to accomplish this, I first studied my personal responses to a variety of built, as well as, natural spaces. I used two types of case studies, one looking at spaces and the other looking at the building type. Besides utilizing traditional building analysis, I also used literature to study space, since it allows me to study human’s reaction to space.These helped to shed light on why or why not certain spaces fulfill the building’s purpose. Later, through a series of art workshops with women at a local shelter, I was able to better understand the user. These workshops culminated in a collaborative art installation in which their reality and mine were combined. In addition, I researched other fields that are also trying to understand why we respond to space the way we do. Some of these fields are environmental psychology, sociology, behavioral studies, and art. Their findings led me to design flexible spaces that allow each woman to shape their own space, and spaces that appeal to all six senses.

Following this exploration, I developed a program to meet the user’s requirements. This program described a prototypical facility that embodies ideal conditions. I then explored this program and its spatial requirements through physical models. A series of models interacting with the site gave birth to three design concepts. From these various schemes, a final design was selected and brought to the design development phase.