The 21st century, with its bustling daily lifestyle, has an underside to the fast-paced, technologically advanced world. Well-being, the wellness of the body and the mind, is merely a priority and is often forgotten. Wellness is “a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity,” as defined by the World Health Organization. Several vital areas of our lifestyle, such as social connectedness, exercise, nutrition, sleep, and mindfulness, are significant dimensions of overall wellness. Spaces play a pivotal role in influencing these dimensions. We respond to various cues from our surrounding environment accordingly and react to them with their inevitable influence over the physical and mental self. Wellness architecture deals with the design of built environments with a motive to promote various aspects of well-being.
Architecture from a Healthy Perspective
The link between our physical surroundings and human health is more robust than we think. Design configuration and manipulation of these indoor/outdoor spaces and their elements affect their inhabitants unconsciously. The focus here is on the quality of a place over quantitative aspects that have long-term implications. Quality has more depth than quantity. It allows one to use their resources more efficiently. It supports sustainability and thus becomes less of a burden for the environment. It helps focus & develop on the relevant aspects apart from the careful prioritization. Various essential dimensions of wellness include the physical, emotional, spiritual, environmental, intellectual, occupational, and social balance.
Architecture poses various opportunities through the design of form, space, and materiality to tackle the wellness aspects. Right from ordering better relationships among people and their environment through creative interactions, wellness architecture helps develop a harmonious, healthy balance. Considering the physical, emotional, cognitive, and thermal conditions and spiritual well-being while regenerating the natural environment, the necessity to practice various healthy strategies and intelligent solutions are now more evident than before, as demonstrated by the 2019 pandemic.
Wellness in general directs to subdue stress, reduce the risk of illness and ensure positive interactions. Wellness strategies in design aim to tailor fluid spaces according to the intended tasks and processes by re-thinking spaces and also strive to incorporate sustainable, energy-efficient approaches, create physically legible surroundings and encourage social interactions wherever necessary. Apart from the size and orientation of space, materials, sound, and textures, some specific wellness-enhancing aspects include indoor air quality, daylighting, and active and biophilic design strategies. Ensuring fresh air contributes to good space by avoiding harmful volatile organic compounds. The design of context-specific joinery allows a better connection with nature and improves air quality and daylighting significantly. Passive lighting, ample windows, or lighting that imitates daylight has proven to increase productivity, among other benefits.
Active design involves the influence of design on our behavior. As a philosophy, movement, and architectural strategy, it is a tactic employed to promote healthier decision-making among occupants. Biophilic design paves the foundation for the discussed aspects by interconnecting and complementing spaces with nature. Right from incorporating colors derived from nature to using elements such as living walls, biophilic design is a conscious, adaptive response to the natural world. Wellness architecture goes a step ahead by focusing on the relationship between the built environment and the human experience, just over the environmental and energy issues.
Wellness architecture is an indispensable holistic segment of spaces contributing to the human experience. Unlike several famous public and urban areas, catering to move its user with the translated concept of a given emotion, wellness architecture acts as a canvas for all of it. Meticulously designed buildings with responsive architecture can sculpt bespoke, mindful experiences. Technology and tools such as VR goggles and biometric sensors help restore and monitor healthy, sustainable, and regenerative design experiences.
Is it the future? Yes, it is. As an integral part of the past, it presently remains in high demand as a neglected entity. It is vital to understand that not only “sick” spaces need to become “well.” All of it can be better for its users if catered to and designed consciously. The movement is universally applicable to all building/space design typologies yet remains unemployed in design today. Architecture, if carefully pursued to help shape open and built environments, can adapt to innate human feelings and improves and optimizes various aspects of life. A complete design requires integration from many specialties, more importantly, those that focus more than the essential basic services. As a modern movement with ancient roots, wellness architecture remains a priority in this list of neglected necessities. It goes beyond maintaining physical health, making humans what they are and how they feel and respond. It considers visceral feelings, posing an opportunity to either amplify/modify them through space, relying solely on the comfort of its users.
As the definition of wellness continues to evolve, organizations such as the International WELL Building Institute help trace various building-level and organizational strategies since 2014, giving hope to a healthy tomorrow!
Citations for websites:
Pfizer (2022). What is Wellness? | Pfizer. [online] www.pfizer.com. Available at: https://www.pfizer.com/health-wellness/wellness/what-is-wellness.
Rickard-Brideau, C. (2018). The Connection Between Space and Wellness | Insights. [online] Little. Available at: https://www.littleonline.com/insights/the-connection-between-space-and-wellness-2/ [Accessed 30 Oct. 2022].
KI. (n.d.). What is Active Design? [online] Available at: https://www.ki.com/insights/blog/what-is-active-design/.
Kellert, S. (2015). What Is and Is Not Biophilic Design? [online] Metropolis. Available at: https://metropolismag.com/viewpoints/what-is-and-is-not-biophilic-design/.
HMC Architects. (2019). Wellness Architecture Design Goes Beyond Residential Spaces | Thought Leadership. [online] Available at: https://hmcarchitects.com/news/wellness-architecture-design-goes-beyond-residential-spaces-2019-07-10/ [Accessed 30 Oct. 2022].
Global Wellness Summit. (n.d.). Wellness Architecture. [online] Available at: https://www.globalwellnesssummit.com/2017-global-wellness-trends/wellness-architecture/ [Accessed 30 Oct. 2022].
McClure, G. (2021). The Deeper Aspects of Wellness Architecture. [online] Technology Designer. Available at: https://www.technologydesigner.com/2021/03/02/deeper-aspects-of-wellness-architecture/ [Accessed 30 Oct. 2022].