Road as Recovery: Using the Urban Street Network as a Therapeutic Resource to Support Positive Mental Health
Costa, Susan Marie
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This thesis explores the therapeutic qualities of the pedestrian urban street network that support positive mental health and well-being. Mental health is an important yet often neglected aspect of modern lives and the stresses associated with living in urban environments are a constant challenge to it. The day-to-day experience of moving through the city affects our health, mood, and physiology, with impacts on long-term health, productivity, and interactions with other beings. Reviewing literature in health, environmental psychology, and landscape architecture, I argue for the need and viability of using the urban street network as a daily resource or delivery system for stress restoration and mental health promotion for individual and community health. Developing an approach to plan and design a therapeutic street network within the public right-of-way requires addressing a broad spectrum of city, neighborhood, and street scales. Focusing on the psychological development of youth and prevention of mental health disorders, schools and the resources adolescents use everyday - such as parks and libraries - become nodes of a delivery system. Green infrastructure, city and community assets, and other opportunities for urban nature and positive sensory experiences connect these nodes to provide a contiguous, accessible, and therapeutic system of services. A framework is developed to explore how the public right-of-way supports therapeutic goals by enriching their meanings and values. This concept is then applied to redesign the street network surrounding Washington Middle School in central Seattle.