From May 2018

How architecture can help to heal

Back in 2013, the New York Times published an article called “Designing for Calm”, which focused on efforts to reduce violence in psychiatric hospitals. They argued that a prominent goal should be to reduce stress for patients, which in turn would lead to less aggression and violence.

Fast forward five years and various studies have shown that architecture, through elements like space, light, geometry and materials, can have an impact on our mood. If nothing else, this reinforces our belief as architects that buildings should always be designed, first and foremost, around their occupants.

Some of the key areas that can affect mood and help to heal include:

Natural light

The use of natural light in buildings can lead to energy savings, provide a more enjoyable space and also give a sense of a larger space. This can be achieved through the use of glazing, doors and roof-lights to ensure that rooms are well lit.

Natural daylight also gives us Vitamin D, a lack of which can lead to depression, obesity and other health problems. Get it right and natural daylight has been shown to improve mood, increase productivity and focus and also psychological wellbeing.

Our Lilly Bank Lodge project placed an emphasis on natural daylight – “The innovative double storey modern extension includes a large area of glazing on the ground floor, which satisfies the 21st century desire for light-filled housing. It brings light deep into the rooms and allows views across the beautiful gardens.”

Versatile spaces

Multi-purpose spaces are another significant area in which architecture can influence and affect your mood. Allowing people to interpret a space for themselves allows for a greater sense of control. The example given in the 2013 article – “Providing day rooms and other shared spaces with movable seating, for example, gives patients the ability to control their personal space and interactions with others.”

“Good designs are where it is not dictated to the individual how they should perceive, operate or feel in the building, but have the flexibility to explore and experience it for themselves,” says Dr Marialena Nikolopoulou, from the School of Architecture at the University of Kent.


The use of texture in architecture is nothing new. Textures and patterns have long been used to create unique experiences for building occupants. Texture plays a dual role in architecture: it expresses something of the quality of materials, and it gives a particular quality to light.

It is rare to find a single texture used in a building. For example, different carpet textures in a room can help create sections, allowing more versatility in a space.

In our ‘Wycliffe Nursing home’ project for Leicester based charity, Vista, we used materials to create different zones to help dementia patients. Zones included a reading area, memory wall and cinema /tv area etc.


Excessive noise can produce stress, so as architects we try to reduce this. The choice of materials, as well as the shape of a room can have huge impacts on the amount of noise produced. For example, the use of heavy carpet and soft furnishings can help dampen sound transfer.

Our Gaulby Lodge and Rose Retreat projects involved large volumes in various rooms and also the entrance areas.

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