Architecture and Mental Health

‘I’m blank’!!

I lift my head over my computer, as though trying to peep through the window, and I see a grove: branches seamlessly and gently swaying from side to side as though they were prompting me to take a moment to observe how they open up to the wind and then cap it under their leaves before giving away to its force.

I’ve always been an outdoor person. I find myself stealing a glance through a window or completely getting lost in my thoughts watching birds fly by or allow my mind playfully imagine clouds mimic objects and forms: to reboot and continue with what I do. I’ve travelled quite a lot through the office and I’ve never lost touch with outdoors.

Being able to step out of ones ‘state of mind’ is something most are unable to do. The moment you find that route of escape your mind ceases to be the trap of no escape. Anxieties, Bipolar disorder, eating disorders, Psychological stress, Posttraumatic stress disorders etc. are disorders common to many people who may not be aware of their mental health state or may not want to disclose it due to the stereotype of mental health disorders.

The World Mental Health Day is observed on 10th October every year, with an overall objective of raising awareness of mental health issues around the world and mobilizing efforts in support of mental health.

In discussing mental health, we cannot isolate the built environment and our interactions with it. Architecture provides buildings, landscaping, interiors etc. and we interact with these spaces daily: at home, schools, workplaces, health facilities etc.

In line with this, two situations come to mind where our work has had direct impact on the topic at hand

The first being our work place, Archxenus and the second being a recreational facility for Children with mental disabilities, The Butterfly place.

Conscious of our work culture, an open calm cooperate setting was our approach to enhance the way we work at Archxenus, taking away the sense of isolation and fostering community: easily reaching our colleagues for information concerning work, brainstorming and presentations.

To give a sense of space and add to the lightness in office spaces, large full windows are used to allow in natural light.

Textured/patterned glaze partitions and feature walls are designed to stimulate the mind and break views into private spaces.

The choice of colors and the play of artistic pattern for the interior are purposed for relaxation and calmness, creating pockets of interest in different spaces.

Architecture has an inherent role in the built environment and providing spaces that are sensitive to the overall wellbeing of its users. Designing a facility for persons with mental disability needs to address issues such as.

The second project we untook was The Butterfly Place project, a recreational facility for children with mental disabilities, it presented an opportunity to design a facility that responds to the needs of its users.

Butterflies are associated with freedom and for these children we sought to provide a facility that Nurtures. Stimulatesand Integrates. A facility that responds to safety, unhindered movements, surface treatments, textures and choice of colors.

The client was specific on having Temporary Structures and like any other project had a restricted budget. The approach was to use that which was easily Demountable, Stimulating,Safeand Quick to build: shipping containers cladded in colorful bamboo arranged in and around a secured courtyard with each space overlooking the courtyard.

Bringing in a lot of light into the space was an approach used to eliminate the children feeling hemmed in and this was achieved with Perspex windows (for safety). Colors and textures are also used as stimulant through the facility. The butterfly births the concepts of colors, floating lightness and the choice for the exterior and interior colors depicts this effortlessly: the exterior stained in primary colors and more cooler colors indoors.

For us creating a space where these children could feel free and be safe was our ultimate goal.

 

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