Mental health matters have become a real talking point and you might wonder how important architecture is in the role of your healthy mind, wellbeing and quality of life; well very important!
Just think for a moment if the room you are reading this in had no windows, the ventilation was so poor you were constantly in a space that was either too hot or too cold, the noise levels too loud, or you could hear conversations next door!
These issues are even more important when you consider that many of us spend more time at work than we do in our own homes. So how we feel, and how we interact within our working environment, is critical to our everyday health.
What are we trying to achieve with wellbeing in architecture?
- Ultimately, we want to reduce stress levels and ease anxiety.
- We want a good night’s sleep and feel refreshed every day.
- Positive physical and mental health
- Feel safe
- Feel healthy
- And be happy.
What can you do to improve your wellbeing?
There are obviously many things we can do with a space when designing it from scratch, from creating green spaces or green living walls, large windows, filtered air systems or ergonomically designed spaces that impact on our bodies the least.
Many new build homes and commercial spaces consider the orientation of the building to ensure the building captures the best light. Or they have courtyards that are communal spaces encouraging people to interact with one another and be less isolated.
There are even groups such as WISE (Wellbeing in Sustainable Environments) who conduct research into how our environment affects us and how best practice and great design can improve our mental health in the long term.
It doesn’t have to be costly to improve your wellbeing
However, many of us are restricted with the space we’re in, so what can you do?
It doesn’t have to be costly, here are a few simple things you can do right now:
- Natural daylight is a good place to start, open blinds or curtains and clean those windows! It’s amazing how much bigger a room can feel.
- Open those windows and let some fresh air in, it sounds simple, but being in touch with nature is very important to our mental health, even better, go out for a walk!
- De-clutter, having clean surfaces and tidy surroundings- you know what they say ‘A tidy room is a tidy mind.’
- Introduce some green plants, again, bring a bit of nature into your environment.
- Colours can also influence our mood, it is often said that blues and greens have a calming effect as they are linked to nature- blue skies and green fields. These colours are often used in hospitals. Colours can also affect how spacious a room feels.
- Double check your working area is comfortable for you, this may mean a DSE risk assessment (Display Screen Equipment). Ensure the area you spend so much time in is comfortable for you and not causing any added stress by being uncomfortable or unknowingly causing you harm.
We, as architects, have a social responsibility and enjoy designing buildings that improve the quality of life of the people using them. We have designed Wellness Centres, Community Spaces and Offices with design details such as green living walls, here’s how:
Wellness Centre- This project highlighted the need for natural light, a spacious calm and restful space. This was achieved with roof lights, natural colours and materials and an open plan double height space. It provided a new set of therapy areas to an existing hotel.
Community Space- A unique business model comprising a Café with Counselling Services, this building required an extension and major alterations. Initially designed to include a performance space, the completed project provides a space for the community to enjoy ensuring clients are comfortable and at ease with their surroundings.
Office- An office extension with a difference, located within a conservation area, the brief was to blend with its rural surroundings. The materials chosen and the green living wall sought to integrate the building within the landscape. The south facing elevation provided excellent views, almost bringing the outside in.
More on architecture and mental health
If you would like to see further examples of how buildings have been designed to help those using them feel better, from the 19th Century to the present day, we recommend visiting the ‘Living with Buildings’ exhibition at the Wellcome Collection, until 3rd March 2019.