The Role of Architecture in Mental Wellness

In an over-stimulated and fast paced digital world, it has become extremely difficult to focus on meaningful experiences and connections with our relationships to people, the community and with ourselves. [1] Our current technological attachments have lead to a surge in societal stress and a disconnection from our immediate and peripheral environments prioritising and promoting digital absorption and distraction. These impacts are demonstrating a concerning increase in negative social, physiological and psychological conditions that can cause disastrous effects on our physical and mental health.

In a world that is often critically demanding of our attention and time, the benefit of mindful or conscious architecture, and its curated relationship with its surrounding environment, is profound. The effect it has on the mental and physical well being of the human condition can prove to be therapeutic and healing in many ways. The concepts of one’s isolation, contemplation, self reflection and presence in time are key to any healing practice and are some of many opportunities of spatial exploration for holistic and mutually beneficial methods of treatment.

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A design geared around technological detoxification will be able to incorporate both experiential architecture and natural environment to sustain the users’ sense of space and time. But architecture must also do more to fulfil the psychological needs of the user as this will indicate the success of the design. When a wellness facility works to influence the diversity of its users’ emotional response, and “addresses user’s psychological needs, they are happiest,” as mentioned by Sally Augustin (Place Advantage: Applied Psychology for Interior Architecture). [2] And although each users emotions are a result of the unique way they understand and experience the world, its important for designers to consider and address the visceral, behavioral and reflective levels of human cognitive ability and use it to elicit appropriate emotions to create positive, meaningful experiences. [2]

A number of design parameters will play an enormous part in securing the notion of interaction or solitude, discovery or retreat dependent on the occupant and their needs. The spatial threshold between form and landscape will help to heighten a level of introspection and sense of presence as well as to help visually disconnect, nourish, recover and retreat. [3]

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According to the needs of the user, architecture will either force users to pay attention to their immediate surroundings or fade into the background allowing users to think and feel on their own. [2] Crafting mindful architecture as an extension to this, will allow for the users of the space to disconnect mentally from outside factors which may be distracting or detrimental to their healing and begin to look inward; thus treating the mind and body as mutually exclusive categories.

A Buddhist shrine by Arch Studio in Hebei, Beijing is representational of the idea about the need for humans and nature to exist in harmony by designing with minimal disruption to the existing landscape. [4] “Zen stresses on complying with nature and being part of nature,” explained the architects. [4] “..Making use of space, structure and material to stimulate human perception, thus helping man and building to find the charm of nature.” Arch Studio focused primarily on exemplifying wellness through expressing the seamless thresholds between interior and exterior, stimulating human perception and simplicity for users’ inward reflection and contemplation.

Architecture in conjunction with mindfulness practice, can contribute to wellbeing as a form of therapy by heightening internal and external awareness and evoking contemplative states. [1] It’s strong links to nature and landscapes help to isolate architectural forms and curate an experience that is multi-faceted and beneficial to the physiological and psychological needs of the user.


Figure 1: Naoshima, Japan’s Art Island – A Quick Guide for Visitors. Digital Image. Pinterest. Accessed April 27, 2021.

Figure 2: Chichu Art Museum. Digital Image. Benesse Art Site. Accessed April 27, 2021.

Figure 3 & 4: Arch Studio carves concrete Buddhist shrine into a grassy mound in Hebei. Digital Image. Dezeen. Accessed April 27, 2021.


[1] Benjamin Daniel Fisher, “Mindful Architecture” (PhD diss., University of British Columbia, 2016), 5.

[2] Cassandra Dickson, “The Architecture of Mindfulness” (PhD diss., Arizona State University Barrett, 2018), 34.

[3] Christopher B. McMahon, “Museum of Self” (PhD diss., Curtin University, 2020), 55.

[4] Alyn Griffiths, “ Arch Studio carves concrete Buddhist shrine into a grassy mound in Hebei,” Dezeen, May 10, 2017,