Take a tour of the new wave of build­ings de­signed to in­crease your health and hap­pi­ness

Of­fices and homes can in­crease your health and hap­pi­ness – we ex­plore the new wave of build­ings that are help­ing to im­prove lives in the UK and be­yond

ELLE Decoration (UK) - - Contents -

The building you’re in right now could be good for your health. It could be mak­ing you more pro­duc­tive, fit­ter, calmer, even hap­pier. That is if its cre­ators have fol­lowed the prin­ci­ples be­ing ad­hered to by a new wave of ar­chi­tects, who are pri­ori­tis­ing the men­tal and phys­i­cal well­ness of the peo­ple who will use their struc­tures. They are flood­ing spa­ces with en­er­gis­ing amounts of nat­u­ral light, util­is­ing com­fort­ingly tac­tile sur­faces and en­cour­ag­ing peo­ple to be ac­tive in­doors. It’s an ex­cit­ing, holis­tic ap­proach to wellbeing.

Take the new Out­door Care Re­treats at the Oslo Univer­sity Hos­pi­tal (pic­tured) – de­signed by de­sign prac­tice Snøhetta, the se­cluded wooden shel­ters in the hos­pi­tal’s grounds are sur­rounded by birch trees

and bird­song. The aim is that na­ture will put pa­tients into a re­laxed state, aid­ing their re­cov­ery. An­other ex­am­ple is the Stamba Ho­tel in Tbil­isi, de­signed by the Ad­jara Arch Group. It’s an in­dus­trial space trans­formed into an in­door jun­gle, which brings the soothing sen­sory ex­pe­ri­ence of a rain­for­est into the cen­tre of the city.

‘ We’ve all been in places where we feel in­stantly happy, calm and re­laxed,’ says ar­chi­tect Oliver Heath. ‘De­sign­ers need to recog­nise driv­ers that can im­prove wellbeing and use them as the pil­lars for ev­ery project.’ This is not just a fringe idea, but part of an in­dus­try-recog­nised move­ment. Lead­ing this new way is the Well Building In­sti­tute, the in­ter­na­tional body that cre­ated the Well Building Stan­dard – a cer­ti­fi­ca­tion awarded to pro­jects that ful­fil cer­tain cri­te­ria. These in­clude op­ti­mal in­door air qual­ity, ac­cess to well-fil­tered wa­ter and healthy food choices, good nat­u­ral light, a soothing en­vi­ron­ment that en­cour­ages ac­tiv­ity, and a wealth of re­lax­ation spa­ces. So far, 1,286 build­ings have achieved the stan­dard world­wide, a hand­ful of which are in the UK (though many more ad­here to the in­sti­tute’s prin­ci­ples).

Ben Allen of Studio Ben Allen was the first ar­chi­tect to be awarded the Well Building Stan­dard for his London head­quar­ters, de­signed for the engineering firm Cun­dall. Com­pleted in 2016, it is an ‘ac­tive of­fice’, with chairs re­placed by com­mu­nal benches that en­cour­age peo­ple to move around more. Nat­u­rally an­tibac­te­rial brass countertops are used in the kitchen and fit­tings through­out are made from wood, be­cause it ages more beau­ti­fully than plas­tic fur­ni­ture, which de­vel­ops chips and scuffs. At Plat­form in Leeds, an of­fice cre­ated by DLG Ar­chi­tects,

‘DE­SIGN­ERS NEED TO RECOG­NISE DRIV­ERS THAT CAN IM­PROVE WELLBEING’

vast win­dows show off the view of the city and the stair­well is dec­o­rated with the largest mu­ral in Europe – to en­cour­age peo­ple to walk up the stairs rather than use the lifts. ‘Ex­pe­ri­enc­ing beauty af­fects how some­one feels about their sur­round­ings, and com­pels them to feel good,’ ex­plains David Bai­ley, a part­ner at DLG. ‘Em­ploy­ers are fi­nally see­ing the ben­e­fits of spend­ing money on it.’

Oliver Heath’s work fol­lows the the­ory of bio­philic de­sign, which pro­poses that while a di­rect link to na­ture is ideal, tex­tures and colours that mimic it can evoke the same emo­tional re­sponse. Car­pet tiles he cre­ated with floor­ing com­pany In­ter­face copy nat­u­ral tex­tures, in­tro­duc­ing the or­ganic from the ground up. At the Hack­ney Gar­den School, Heath turned an un­used space into a sen­sory haven for autis­tic chil­dren, with booths lined with grass-like car­pet, while at Re:mind, a stylish med­i­ta­tion cen­tre in London’s Vic­to­ria, Heath in­stalled lights made from Hi­malayan pink salt – their nat­u­ral glow helps to put vis­i­tors at ease. For a re­cent res­i­den­tial project, he low­ered all of the house’s win­dows so that its wheel­chair-bound owner could look out at the gar­den she loves. ‘You could see the instant pos­i­tive effect that had on her men­tal state,’ he says.

Allen adds that it’s im­por­tant for peo­ple to fol­low well­ness guidelines at home, too. ‘Avoid us­ing lead-based paint and strong ad­he­sives that emit toxic chem­i­cals, and cut ma­te­ri­als off­site as much as pos­si­ble to re­duce harm­ful dust. Also, dec­o­rate with colours and tex­tures from na­ture – they can make you happy.’ He sums up: ‘If we feel good in our sur­round­ings, at home and at work, our well­ness can only be in­creased.’

NAT­U­RAL COLOURS, TEX­TURE AND LOTS OF LIGHT CAN MAKE YOU HAPPY

Words PIP MCCORMAC

Above Ben Allen’s de­sign for engineering firm Cun­dall’s head­quar­ters, with an abun­dance of wood and com­mu­nal benches in­stead of chairs Right Wall-to-wall win­dows al­low for al­most un­in­ter­rupted views of the city at Plat­form’s of­fices in Leeds, de­signed by DLG Ar­chi­tects Op­po­site An ur­ban rain­for­est aesthetic brings a sense of calm to Tbil­isi’s Stamba Ho­tel

Top Car­pet tiles cre­ated by ar­chi­tect Oliver Heath and floor­ing com­pany In­ter­face to mimic grass Above left Hack­ney Gar­den School’s sen­sory safe haven for autis­tic chil­dren, also by Oliver Heath Left Lights made of Hi­malayan rock salt emit a nat­u­ral glow at the Re: Mind med­i­ta­tion cen­tre

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