How spa­ces af­fect well-be­ing

Ar­chi­tec­ture shifts its fo­cus away from glass and stone back to light and space


The en­vi­ron­ment is linked to hu­man life, its shifts and changes dic­tat­ing liv­ing pat­terns and be­hav­iors, mood and psy­che in­cluded. Sea­sonal Af­fec­tive Dis­or­der (SAD), for ex­am­ple, is brought about by the changes in sea­sons. Some­times called win­ter blues or sum­mer­time sad­ness, SAD may well be con­sid­ered a sea­sonal de­pres­sion.

The con­di­tions that im­prove or worsen mood can be found in nat­u­ral as well as man-made en­vi­ron­ments such as build­ings. A re­port by the World Green Build­ing Coun­cil (GBC) quotes Win­ston Churchill: “We shape our build­ings, and af­ter­wards our build­ings shape us.”

It sounds ob­vi­ous enough, but tak­ing the oc­cu­pants’ phys­i­cal and men­tal health into con­sid­er­a­tion in build­ing de­sign has been only re­cently re­gain­ing sig­nif­i­cance. Early mod­ernists once em­pha­sized the im­por­tance of light and air in ar­chi­tec­ture, but af­ter a pe­riod of di­ver­gence, the fo­cus is be­ing brought back to health and well­ness.

Ar­chi­tec­tural and de­sign psy­chol­ogy sug­gest sev­eral fac­tors to con­sider in cre­at­ing healthy spa­ces.


Color psy­chol­ogy sug­gests that spa­ces painted in a shade of blue or green are more calm­ing, mak­ing it ideal for hospi­tals. Th­ese col­ors also im­prove cre­ative idea gen­er­a­tion, use­ful for of­fices. Red, on the other hand, is dis­cour­aged for med­i­cal in­sti­tu­tions as it may rouse feel­ings of anger, but is more com­mon for restau­rants as it also serves as an ap­petite stim­u­lant.

Light and views

Sev­eral stud­ies note the pref­er­ence for and ben­e­fits of hav­ing win­dow views, es­pe­cially in hospi­tals and of­fices. Aside from al­low­ing en­try for nat­u­ral light, views out­side, par­tic­u­larly of na­ture, help ease feel­ings of stress. The World GBC notes: “longer dis­tance views, away from com­puter screens or writ­ten doc­u­ments, al­low the eyes to ad­just and re-fo­cus, which re­duces fa­tigue, headaches, and the ef­fects of eye strain in the long term.”

Pri­vacy and com­mon spa­ces

Of­fice de­sign trends have re­cently been lean­ing to­wards open-plan spa­ces. The in­ten­tion is to en­cour­age in­for­mal so­cial in­ter­ac­tions, which ideally would lead to bet­ter com­mu­ni­ca­tion among em­ploy­ees. Some stud­ies note that a strong sense of so­cial sup­port helps pro­mote bet­ter men­tal health, but de­spite the im­por­tance of th­ese open spa­ces, a strong need for pri­vacy still re­mains. True pri­vacy is, af­ter all, not just about what you can keep out of pry­ing eyes, but the de­grees of how much you want to know about oth­ers and how much you want them to know about you.

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