A term used to refer to housing and shelter, architecture and design are associated with designing spaces that improve the overall quality of daily human life and experience. As such, it has become an encompassing tool that can shape the social, emotional, and economic aspects of human life. Binding communities and people together, architecture occupies a unique position as a witness to the historical development and resilience of communities within modern cities. An important factor that can influence its users’ behavior and mental health, architecture provides a stable foundation for people to thrive and a venue to help communities realize their dreams and aspirations. 

Mental health in the architecture community-Sheet1

A machine for the living

Modern architecture has evolved from being a simple and tangible component necessary for human survival, into a complex machine that nurtures and embodies the intangible components of human existence. Whether designed to evoke feelings of awe, grandeur, or authority, architecture through the use of volume, scale, and other design tools, has the power to leave lasting impressions and elicit emotions from its users. The detrimental effect that industrialization left on the environment and the deteriorating quality of human living conditions gave birth to the ideas of human-centric and sustainable design. Departing from the usual architecture practices of the time, mid-century designers and the environmental architectural movement of the 1960s explored the role that architecture plays in the overall wellness and mental health of its inhabitants. From the likes of Le Corbusier and Frank Lloyd Wright, architects have helped pioneer the goal of organic and sustainable design by considering the physical and ecological effects of their projects on people. Ergonomics and the importance of access to light, air, and ventilation have since then become one of the defining elements of architecture today. 

Tasked with a more complex role than ever, architecture is considered a tough profession to be in due to the weight of responsibilities an architect carries and the multiple roles that he assumes on a daily. Chasing deadlines, balancing financials, and the relentless quest to deliver the best possible output can drive anyone toward burnout and depression. As architects spend long grueling hours working on revisions, they often sacrifice their rest to meet deadlines. Not only that the stress of delivering a perfect product affect one’s semblance of work-life balance, but mental health as well as one’s overall fitness tend to suffer as well. With the demand to catch up with the speed of rapid modernization and technology, the lack of work-life balance is still apparent within the profession today. As someone who designs spaces to elevate and improve the lives of their clients, it is ironic that architects often have little time to enjoy the healing effects of their very own work. 

A balancing act

The recent pandemic has paved the way for people to reconsider the way they live and work and has also brought into light some of the underlying issues that modern cities continue to face today. From the utilitarian design of cities to the lack of green urban infrastructure, people started to appreciate how good design and architecture can impact their health, and mitigate wellness, and mental wellbeing. In homes where space is limited, public areas have become an important feature by becoming third spaces that can help people cope with their living conditions. By bringing social spaces and healthy infrastructure closer to consumers and cities, residents are allowed to achieve a sense of work-life balance and improved mental health simply by experiencing nature and connecting with their community. 

The rise in popularity of remote work arrangements has also pivoted the demand for better spaces and sustainable developments. Remote work offers the advantage of avoiding the commute, granting people the flexibility and surplus of time to do other things. Despite the advantages remote work offers, people still experience burnout and depression as the boundaries between their workspace collide with their living spaces. Shaking up routines and changing sceneries are among the go-to strategies that remote workers employ to help regain a semblance of work-life balance. As hybrid work setups remain attractive for the working population, more and more companies are starting to adapt to the situation by offering terms such as shortened work weeks, remote work, and mental health breaks, among other perks. Acknowledged as the future of work, global companies ranging from tech, finance, and even design firms started to switch to temporary and permanent remote work setups. One example would be the South Africa-based firm SAOTA, which shifted away from the traditional office setup during the pandemic and remained a completely digital workplace with remote employees worldwide.  

Creative industries are known for their courage to break the norms and foster innovation. Hence, creative fields such as architecture and design should spearhead such changes in the modern workplace. Beyond dedicating their lives to their passion for improving lives through spaces, architects wear various hats and juggle responsibilities on a daily. Long work hours, impossible deadlines, and endless revisions make them susceptible to mental health challenges such as burnout and depression. An issue that remains to be properly addressed and discussed in most workplaces, is a balanced workload and a strong connection to the community should help professionals maintain their mental health as well as keep them empowered.

Mental health in the architecture community-Sheet2



With a predilection for imperfect things and strong coffee, Chris is an architect who spends his free time sketching, gardening, or pondering on topics that pique his interest. He aspires to bridge the old and the new by looking at how evolving culture and future technology can help reshape environments.