The design of our built environment affects the health and well-being of a human and can have long-term implications on their quality of life. Well-being in occupied spaces is an ancient concept. Humans have always regarded bodily comfort as their utmost priority. However, the concept tends to resurface with tenacity following a global pandemic. A significant change in the conceptualization and utilization of certain interior elements was observed in the early twentieth century when the world was hit by its first modern plague, famously called the Spanish Flu of 1919. Residential spaces designed after the pandemic incorporated windows, balconies, and easy-clean furniture, making the heavy drapery and intricate ornamentation outdated and unnecessary. The focus shifted to better ventilation and natural lighting systems. Thus, the Modern design movement began with the underlying intention of dealing with the prevalent diseases of the time. 

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A note from Spanish Flu pandemic urging people to keep windows open_

The designers of the 1920s aimed to prevent or stop the spread of infectious diseases by rethinking age-old design practices, and a handful of them were successful in shaping the modern movement, which consequently gave rise to design styles like Minimalism. 

Richard Neutra: Health House

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Open layout with large windows of the Health House_Spotlight on Richard Neutra on Archdaily

Richard Neutra’s Health of 1929 house was commissioned by an alternate health doctor who wanted a residence that enhanced the health of the inhabitants and well-being as the prime focus of the design. The architect utilized novelty construction methods of the time (The health house was the first residence built using steel members). The layout was fairly open and uncluttered, with minimum interior partitions. Natural light, fresh air, unrestricted views of the external scenery, and indoor greenery were interlaced with mass-produced building materials. Each room was attached to an outdoor space. The architect personally interviewed each member of the household to understand their needs. A residence that caters specifically to you tends to foster good mental health of the inhabitants. 

Le Corbusier: Villa Savoye  

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Entrance sink at the Villa savoye suggesting Sanatarium like qualities_Architecture Classics Villa Savoye Le Corbusier on Archdaily

With the advent of Covid-19, modernist structures of the late 1920s can now be looked at in a new light. Villa Savoye, constructed in the wake of the Spanish flu pandemic, integrated a staunch demarcation between interior and exterior spaces highlighted through a sink in the foyer. Le Corbusier’s sink might be a meaningful resurrection of a seemingly functional, almost invisible piece of plumbing which is both a lifesaver and still an unimaginable item of luxury for much of the world. Would it be an exaggeration to term these thresholds as the bastion of sterility?

Regardless of the criticism the villa received, the design promoted hygiene and a user-friendly approach termed ‘Nudge Architecture.’ The architect aimed at nudging the user to practice healthy habits. The inclusion of ramps in the space is suggestive of the same. 

Around the same time, the architect wrote his first book, “Towards a new architecture” (1923), which had an influential section on the well-being of humans “The manual of dwelling.” This particular section, written like a manifesto, has a western idea of designing residences; however, well-being in spaces forms the core of the writing. 

Sameep Padora: Spare and UDAAN Affordable Housing at Karjat

In the Indian Context, the issue is much more deeply rooted. Our ancestors designed beautifully functional spaces. However, with the onset of modernization and urbanization, we seemed to design for a certain section of the masses. The poor strata of society were provided with non-contextual mass-produced matchbox housing solutions. Sameep Padora, in his TEDx talk “The architecture of Mumbai is killing us”, explains the reasoning behind the thought process shift. The research conducted by his firm confirms the fact that people living in housing sectors constructed by slum rehabilitators suffer from serious respiratory problems ( 1 out of 10 people). The apartments are devoid of any natural light or fresh air. The matchbox housing system also rampantly cuts down on any scope of social interaction between the community, thus degrading the mental and communal well-being. 

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UDAAN low cost mass housing at Karjat_Sameep Padora and associates

In his affordable housing project in Karjat, he aims to provide better air quality to the residents through the use of cross ventilation. The units are created with two sets of windows, one inside the apartment and one outside. The hot air escapes from the set of windows placed in the lobby, thereby keeping the interiors cooler. To encourage interaction and community spirit, the internal windows have the scope of providing the users with a chance to communicate with their neighbours. Outside areas such as playgrounds and terrace farms are also incorporated in the design by sP+a. 


Well-being can be physical, social, or mental. Through design interventions, we can alter physical well-being directly. Mental well-being is closely related to our bodily comfort. Studies and research have proven positive effects on patients when treated in a space designed to keep occupants’ well-being in focus. Robert Musil in The man without qualities (1930) wrote, “Modern man is born in a hospital and dies in a hospital- hence he should also live in a place like a hospital.” 


Philcox, T. (2022) The sink in The hall: How pandemics transform architecture: Psyche ideas, Psyche. Psyche. Available at: (Accessed: October 10, 2022). 

Vivaudou, V. (2010) Richard Neutra’s Health House: Was it really healthy?, Issuu. Available at: (Accessed: October 10, 2022). 

Mumbai’s Architecture is killing us! (2019) YouTube. TEDxGateway. Available at: (Accessed: October 10, 2022). 



Saloni Mahajan, an Interior Designer and a visual artist, turns to art as a form of self-expression. She has developed a cosmopolitan spirit, both in terms of design aesthetics and vernacular through her internships and travels to various parts of India.