The impact an interior space can have on our day-to-day lives is enormous. As an interior designer, I believe it is critical to understand the people who live in these spaces, as well as their needs and challenges within these spaces, in order to empathically create a design that positively can improve the user’s life.
A Domestic Violence Refuge & A Community Hub
The Refuge provides a safe and therapeutic environment for survivors of domestic violence, as well as an optimistic space with a strong sense of community and a welcoming atmosphere. This refuge with a focus on mental health, supports survivors with a pathway to healing from trauma. The main facilities in the refuge building are the accommodations, communal areas and an indoor vertical garden. The refuge centre is a private building and it is only accessed by residents and the staff.
The Community Hub is a centre primarily dedicated to raising awareness about domestic violence. It is open to the public, and anyone can use the facilities as well as participate in the activities. The Community Hub also serves as a support centre, offering workshops and professional counseling to those affected by domestic violence.
A workshop area, a dance hall, a community garden and allotments, a community kitchen, and an outdoor kitchen are among the main facilities in The Community Hub.
A Safe Home & A Supportive Community
I did a primary research that gave me insight into the importance of community support. I decided to create a space that feels like home, and those who stay in this refuge can provide support to each other like a found family.
The beginning of my design process was to consider the entire refuge as a home; every home has a kitchen and a living room and that is the heart of a home, which brings all members of the family together. the communal areas are the heart of this women’s shelter. This area is also important for emotional support for residents, as it is a place where people can meet and help each other. It is also used as a private and intimate workshop area that is only accessible to residents and staff. When new residents first arrive at this building, they enter through the living room instead of a reception/ waiting area, the reason for this was to create a warm, welcoming and homely atmosphere upon arrival, though there is a separate private lounge attached to the living room for those who require more privacy.
According to a recent annual report by Women’s Aid, 53.4% of women with no children, 24.1% with one child, 16.32% with two children and only 4.43% with more than two children, sought help from this organization. Based on these statistics I have created 14 apartments that can accommodate up to 14 adults and 9 children in total, plus an emergency accommodation that could lodge up to 6 persons. Based on the statistic on the Women’s Aid website I categorized the apartments into 5 types:
Type 1- Single person apartment
Type 2- Adaptive apartment
Type 3- Big family apartment
Type 4- Accessible apartment
Type 5- Short term emergency shared accommodation
Visual of The Apartments
Evawn is a Persian term that refers to a part of the house that is similar to a balcony and overlooks a garden. In this refuge, Evawn is the central structure that includes the building’s central staircases, as well as balcony-like bridges that connects the accommodations to the Eram Garden.
The Persian word Eram literally means “heaven.” Eram Garden is a mesmerizing vertical green space where residents can wander through it via the staircases and get lost in this biophilic paradise.
Eram Garden provides an indoor, safe and secure space for the residents to improve their mental health. To create this vertical garden I have incorporated three patterns of biophilic design;
1. Presence of Water
2. Biomorphic forms
The concept of the Eram Garden began with the creation of a biomorphic awe-inspiring element in the vertical garden, which would draw the attention of users and cause them to look upwards. Another consideration was to create a dreamy space with soft colors and a soothing atmosphere.
I came across surrealism while researching biomorphism, which is said to be one of the most influential styles on which biomorphism had an impact. Surrealist painters used biomorphic forms to create abstract art; these painters were drawn to the word morphe, which is rooted in Greek mythology and refers to Morpheus, the God of Dreams.
Surrealism was heavily influenced by the dream world and was based on the study of the subconscious. It was the pinnacle of biomorphism in that sense, because it relied on true abstraction, the ultimate expression of freedom and unforeseeable novelty, and it also inhabited the realm of Morpheus, the god of dreams. This was an interesting study that inspired me while designing the Eram Garden.
Many people, regardless of gender, may be victims of domestic violence. The main goal of the community hub is to raise awareness about domestic violence through community workshops and activities, as well as providing professional counselling services to the public.
Residents of the refuge can access the community hub through a separate secure entrance; however, residents are not required to visit the community hub and can remain in the safe environment of the refuge building if they are concerned about their safety. Former refuge residents could always participate in the community hub as a visitor or as an active member.