Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Fine Arts


Interior Design

First Advisor

Roberto Ventura

Second Advisor

Sara Reed

Third Advisor

Christiana Lafazani

Fourth Advisor

Emily Smith

Fifth Advisor

Jennifer Fell


Richmond, Virginia is defined by our connection to the James River. The James River Park system stretches over 550 acres of natural beauty. The park is broken into 14 different sections from the Huguenot Bridge in the west to a half mile beyond the I-95 Bridge in the east. The James River includes water features that appeal to the young and curious to the most experienced river-adventurer. The James River Park System boasts idyllic shorelines, peaceful meadows, and miles of challenging hiking and biking trails that appeal to the community and guests alike. Every year thousands of people come to Richmond for activities and events like the XTerra Races, Dominion RiverRock, the Folk Festival and many more. Amazingly, at this time, there are no convenient downtown or riverfront facilities to allow locals and guests of Richmond to interact with the James River Park system.

With use of the Pattern Building at Tredegar Iron Works, this project will combine the ideas of biophilia, and eco-tourism to design a boutique hotel that will cater to outdoor enthusiasts. In addition to guest suites, this boutique hotel will offer an outdoor recreation rental, retail and repair facility that will offer bikes, kayaks, tubes, paddle-boards, climbing equipment and other essentials for outdoor exploration. A small cafe will offer healthy, locally sourced, farm to table snack and drink options. Both indoor and outdoor seating areas and/or lounges will be available for relaxation. The outdoor patio will feature an interactive garden and give guests a place to enjoy scenic views, practice yoga, meditate and relax. In addition this space could be rented to host special events.

The term Biophilia was first used by a German-born American psychoanalyst Erich Fromm in The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness (1973), which described the term as “the passionate love of life and of all that is alive”. Later the term was used by American biologist Edward O. Wilson in his work Biophilia (1984), that proposed that humans tendency to focus and affiliate with nature and other life-forms has a genetic basis. Humans biologically gravitate toward the rich and diverse shapes, colors and life that exists in the natural world. As we are drawn to the natural world, we also benefit from it. Nature nurtures us and has a positive effect on our health, well-being and happiness. Research led by Yoshifumi Miyazaki at Chiba University sent 84 subjects to stroll in seven different forests, while the same number of people walked city centers. Overall, those who spent time in the forest, showed a 16% decrease in the stress hormone cortisol, a 2% drop in blood pressure, and a 4% drop in heart rate. Although we spend nearly 90% of our lives indoors, those interior environments often do not reflect the characteristics of nature, trigger a positive emotional response, and are not often designed in a sustainable manner. Too often, our surroundings are designed in a way that deteriorate the environment and separate us from the natural world. The built environment of this project will emphasize the human need for contact with nature that is good for physical, emotional and physiological benefit and satisfaction.

While Eco-Tourism is not a new concept the popularity of Eco-tourism increased in the 1980’s when large scale educational efforts by the government touted the benefits of conserving and protecting the environment and planet. Eco-Tourism is a piece of the “Green Movement” (scientific, social and political movement addressing environmental issues) but since there has been an increase in information about how people are negatively impacting the planet. The travel industry has been considered a strong influence and a demand for green hotels, restaurants and transportation is on the rise. Eco-Tourism is defined as “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment, sustains the well-being of the local people, and involves interpretation and education”.

Tourism often comes with its footprint on the environment. Tourism and hospitality must be sustainable. How can we still enjoy the natural wonders of the world yet minimize our impact? By exploring the concepts of Eco-tourism this project will reflect a positive environment and educate visitors on how to make their own changes. Guests will be encouraged to interact with the natural wonders of Richmond in a low impact manner, so that it may remain for others to enjoy.

Research begins by understanding terms like sustainability, Eco-tourism and biophilic design and continues by researching and experiencing examples of them. By studying cases like Frank Lloyd Wrights project “Falling Water” and Mies van der Rohe’s project “Farnworth House,” understanding of a unique connection to the organic environment can occur. By studying Swedish architects Martin Videgard and Bolle Thams project “Tree Hotel” ways to incorporate travel with nature will be discovered. Finally by studying Agence Ter’s project the “Pudong Left Bank” in Shanghai inspiration on how to encourage a city to interact with its natural environment will occur.

The goal of this project is to understand the relationship between human and nature and how it can be controlled and how we can benefit from an Interior Environment.


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