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The Core: A Restorative Retreat Open Access

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It is apparent that the current office workplace often is isolating and stressful, with two-thirds of Americans identifying work as their main cause of stress in a study completed by the American Psychological Association in 2007. Unpleasant working conditions often occurring in dull cubicle spaces may lead to mental fatigue and eventually, negative attitudes and decreased productivity. There is an established connection between stress levels and advanced technology resulting in more individualized work. Mobile technology demands timely responses, and produces an overwhelming accessibility of information. Workplaces provide few opportunities to take breaks and be outdoors away from the office, despite studies confirming views of natural environments and especially spending time within nature is restorative and has lasting positive benefits. Providing employees with opportunities away from the office to collaborate, reenergize, and gain perspective can decrease the negative effects of the office environment, in addition to improving worker outlook. This study will establish the requirements for providing an inspirational, reflective, and supportive retreat space for office workers. The space will integrate the positive qualities that an outdoor natural environment typically provides by manipulating the interior space of an urban structure in Washington, D.C. The characteristics of the retreat space will reflect the four key components of restorative environments identified by Stephen Kaplan, professor of environmental psychology at the University of Michigan: being away, extent or feeling that one is in a different world, fascination, and compatibility. Through transformation of spatial transitions, selection of varying furnishings and finishes, and altering visual, acoustic and dimensional characteristics, the spaces within the building will be designed and positioned to accommodate varying levels of activity including areas for group meetings, individual reflection, random collisions, and leisure. Local retreat spaces of this nature can be utilized by nearby government offices and businesses to economically and efficiently provide their staff with the required repose and camaraderie that can lead to better productivity and worker satisfaction.

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