Retreat Center Design and Planning

There are many components to thoughtful retreat center design. While the design of each space is reflective of each client or owner's needs -- and information drawn from the land itself -- a few common themes or threads are present in nearly every design:

  • A strong boundary that gives your retreat center an enclosed and protected feeling. This creates a safe container to allow for the sweetness of vulnerability to arise naturally and effortlessly.
  • A clear gateway that is easy and obvious for visitors to notice from outside. This contributes to an experience of reassurance and inclusion. The aesthetic of the gateway is an expression of your values, creates a powerful first impression, and offers the first sign of relief that respite is on the way. 
  • A welcoming and inviting entry space, usually just inside the gateway, that offers both an uplifting and calming experience. This space will ideally feel completely separate from the "outside world," and visually connected to other areas of your retreat center.
  • A main building or structure that is the most obvious and prominent structure when standing inside the entry space. Allowing it to be visible and clear from the entry fosters feelings of clarity and structure. The last thing you want is for guests to be confused about where to go once they arrive. The main building can be thought of as the living room. It should be inviting and cozy. 
  • Clear navigation from the main building/structure to other areas of the retreat center. This includes a structured network of trails, and visual cues that help orient guests. This fosters deepening feelings of safety, structure and clarity.
  • An area, or areas of gathering outdoors for the entire group to connect as a whole.
  • Areas of privacy and solitude for sleep, reflection, journaling and meditation. This can include separate rooms or cabins, secret gardens, trails that meandering through the woods, and benches or other seating in cozy or enclosed areas of the site. 
  • A strong connection to nature -- which means the careful and thoughtful selection of plants and materials that support a guest's connection with the soothing, yet powerful energy of Mother Earth. This also ideally includes a humble balance of the four overarching elements of Earth, Air, Fire and Water.
  • A design strategy that supports and fosters feelings of balance and harmony. There are many components to this, including a thoughtful layout of open and enclosed areas, smooth and gentle lines that soften the gaze and provide relief from our highly-structured modern lives, and a careful balance between strength and gentleness. 

There are many more components of thoughtful retreat center design than can be described here. The above list is simply a jumping-off point. Please use the form below to contact Tristan if the information here inspires, uplifts, consoles or delights you. It doesn't matter if your space is in Seattle, Saskatchewan, Sweden or Sri Lanka, Solstice Landscape Design is here for you.  

At this time, in an effort to make this process affordable, rates are negotiable and offered at a discount from his usual rates for residential clients.

Tristan on the grounds of a not-yet-opened Harmony Hills Retreat Center in April of 2021. He spent a week helping the owner design the layout of the many trails, gathering areas, meditation benches and the series of gateways connecting the many spaces on the 20-acre site nestled in the rolling hills of Owings, Maryland.

Not only does Tristan have a passion for landscape design, but he has a passion for the alchemy of personal transformation, community and healing. He's participated in countless retreats, including yoga retreats, men's retreats, meditation retreats, ayahuasca retreats, Kirtan/Bhakti retreats, 12-step recovery retreats and many more. It's not just because he's addicted to them [his copy editor says he is!], but because he truly believes that the healing and connection that occurs at such holistic retreats are restoring strong, resilient and loving communities that will help us all prevail through the trying mechanization of humanity that threatens the very fabric of the soft and flowing nature of our heart-centered selves. 

​​​​​Have you recently acquired land and wish to transform it into a space of healing, connection and personal transformation?  

Would you like the design of your holistic center to be so powerful that the alchemical process of personal growth begins the moment a visitor passes through the gateway and into the space?

If so, you're lucky to have stumbled upon a landscape designer who has a special talent and passion for calling into being such transformational spaces.

Please use this form to contact Tristan to discuss how he can help with your retreat center design. Please share, in detail, about your site and what you are hoping to achieve. You will typically receive a response within 72 hours. Thanks!!!