Healing Sanctuary

Water recreation and healing center for refugees and locals in Florence, Italy

Academic project
Washington University in St. Louis
Florence summer abroad
Instructed by Igor Marjanovic and Alex Waller

Design proposal and drawings produced with Wentao Guo unless otherwise noted

The power of water is immeasurable. Those who survive the treacherous journey across the Mediterranean are traumatized physically and mentally. Even upon arriving in asylum cities, such as Florence, scarring memories associated with water are omnipresent. Florence itself has experienced historically catastrophic floods, shaping the landscape and even culture.

At the highest point in Florence, a sanctuary of water awaits. This is a place of safety, regeneration, and play. Refugees and locals of all origins are welcome. Upon arrival, a canopy spanning monumentally over the city wall draws a visiter into the safe haven underneath it. As it is open to all, regardless of origin, no government-issued ID is required for entry.

A dispersed pool of water glistens under the sunlight that envelopes this space when the shutters of the canopy are open. During times of rain, the canopy's shutters are closed, allowing rainwater to trickle down the curves of the canopy walls into a water filtration and storage system, reducing rainwater erosion of the surrounding landscape. The purified water supplies the community pool, cafe and locker rooms.

Water, the all-encompassing transience of things, is the main feature of the project. Those who bathe and play in it under the light- and water-filtering canopy can, at least for a moment, let the terrible memories of their journeys wash away.