James Eagle

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James Eagle, who is currently studying at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, UK (RIBA Part 1), entered the Architects for Health’s First Student Health Design Award (2007) with the following submission. For contact please email: j_eagle360@hotmail.com

Warkworth Retreat A hide for a group of children in need to be located in or around the village of Warkworth, Northumberland.

Brief Development

Client: ASSIST (Assistance Support and Self help In Surviving Trauma) registered charity number 1052219.

User Group: Children aged between 6 – 11 with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).

PTSD: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a psychological and physical condition that can be caused by extremely frightening or distressing events (e.g. abuse, disaster, bereavement).

PTS symtoms include…
Intrusive symptoms (flashbacks, nightmares)
Hyperarousal (nervousness, jumpy, hypersensitive)
Avoidance symptoms (of places, thoughts, feelings, also numbness)
Other symptoms (difficulty sleeping/concentrating, depression, self isolation, loss of identity/self esteem.

Treatment often involves “Cognitive Behavioural Therapy” (CBT). Initially therapy focus’ upon establishing the Childs safety, this is followed by remembrance, mourning and finally reconnection with ordinary life. CBT is often coupled with psychoeducation for parents / carers. Psychoeducation is the process of learning about PTSD and training parents to help the child with new/adult coping stratergies.


Needs of User Group: The retreat should…

  • Facilitate a “good nights sleep” (for restoration and relaxation)
  • Provide Cognitive Behavioural Counselling CBC (therapy)
  • Accommodate children and their parent/carer for 1-2 weeks and intermittently thereafter (parents/carers support is crucial to diminish the chance of relapses)
  • Enpower children to dictate their position on the dialectic between prospect/exposure and refuge/envelpoment (to construct a sense of safety)
  • Offer solitary spaces/hides for the children (allows the use of natural/inner coping mechanisms and develops them, aids well being and homeostasis, develops the self)
  • Provide relaxing activities e.g hobbies/crafts (full relaxation is paradoxical, contrary to hypervigilance it may put the child in a vulnerable and hence perceived dangerous state. Hobbies/crafts involve relaxation whilst maintaining an alertness and engagement with the environment)
  • Incorporate space for low intensity exercise indoor and/or outdoor (decreases anxiety, depression and enhances positive mood. High intensity exercise implies high arousal which can cue a traumatic memory, therefore lower intensity exercise is preferable)
  • Provide a space to meditate/relax (For those able children/ adults it can reduce anxiety and depression. Often accompanies CBC)
  • Not allow the children to be startled e.g by traffic/surprise encounters (a hypervigilant child may feel very endangered in this situation)
  • Offer participation in normal childhood activities/integration with local children (to develop social skills)
  • Offer psychoeducation for parents/carers (parents/carers support is also crucial during treatment, they may also receive counselling/education to enable them to help their children with PTSD)

A Sustainable Architecture

  • Biofuelled CHP plant supplies heat (underfloor) and electric. Also supports local farming through diversification
  • Natural daylighting into all spaces
  • Located within walking distance of Warkworth, would also be supported by local transport infrastructure
  • Availability of locally sourced produce from Warkworth
  • Use of reduced cement content concrete, to minimise Co2 emissions
  • Composting toilets minimising water consumption (compost used to fertilize garden)
  • Locally sourced materials
  • Built on existing clearence in the landscape (car park and picnic area)
  • Sunken courtyard garden enhancing biodiversity
  • A green footprint (Earth sheltering reclaims building footprint)
  • Earth sheltering to insulate and reduce energy losses
  • Use of natural insulants (sheeps wool and earth sheltering)
  • Green roof moderates rain water runoff
  • Minimal structural maintainance in erosive costal location (use of concrete and torten steel)
  • Natural ventilated spaces
  • Use of passive solar heat gains
  • Minimal visual intrusion into natural landscape
  • Integrated with landscape

The Architects for Health
First Student Health Design Award
was sponsored by



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