Can Architecture aid the healing process? How does it affect human psychology? What can we do to make Therapeutic Architecture?

Architecture is an art, which has many facets to it as it is an amalgamation of science, expressions, aesthetics, technology, and satisfaction of human needs. Architecture if practiced correctly has the ability to create meaningful spaces but an architect who possesses little knowledge about his domain is equally capable of creating blunders. Churches, mosques, and cathedrals planned centuries ago; it is a testimony to architectural marvels as they engulf a sense of magnificence, royalty, glory, serenity, and peacefulness. The intriguing details of the spaces were meant to induce positive feelings and emotions and are considered as masterpieces of architecture to date as they continue to fascinate historians, researchers, and travelers from across the globe. In a rat race to achieve modernization in terms of lifestyle; humans prefer adopting lifestyles that revolve around built environments and prefer less interaction with the natural environment. The volume of the crowd getting attracted to shopping complexes in comparison to natural parks is proof of that.

Humans have a tendency to achieve nuances by constantly developing something new in hope towards a better future. But, hardly realizes that this urbanization has led to so much dependence on technology that our lifestyle is completely mechanized leading towards busy work schedules, increased toxicity levels, reduced green spaces, un-planned and un-pleasant surroundings, congested living environments and many more. The long-term effect of it is a multitude of health issues and diseases; leading towards overindulgence on medication, chemical drugs, and health care centers.


With the ever-increasing population and their indulgence in using medicines to treat illness, it has become all the more important to rely on natural means, treatments, and remedies; which are being neglected due to lack of awareness among the masses. The current trends are towards designing and developing state of the art health centers that not only focus on having aesthetic enhancements (to reduce stress and anxiety) but also make a deliberate effort towards promoting patients’ health and healing mechanisms. Such spaces can be a very good medium for instilling emotions, i.e. the aura of space can bring a positive change in a person’s perception and mood while using the space.

The work aims to discover how architecture and aesthetics can create an environment conducive to the healing process. The work nowhere thrusts that the architecture, when used independently, has the ability to heal; but the architectural manipulation of space can act as a catalyst in creating a healing environment that may affect the physical and psychological behavior of the patient. The objective of this study is to analyze the following:

  1. a) How spaces can be designed in line with the healing process of patients.
  2. b) To discover various facets of architecture viz-a-viz human psyche.
  3. c) To study the concept of sensory architecture to understand the relation of man and his environment.
  4. d) To study how natural elements can be a catalyst in the healing environment.


1. Literature Survey

The placebo treatment is a pseudo-medical treatment that seems to be real but actually is not. This treatment tries to treat the body through the mind. Such a treatment effect can be very well seen through Maggie Centers by Charles Jencks 2010, who believed in the architectural placebo effect. He used this philosophy and created an Architectural environment through his designs in a manner that helped in treating many cancer patients. Such an environment not only helps patients receive mental and social support for dealing with cancer but also boosts their emotions. Such a discovery was earmarked by a renowned American philosopher William James who believed “the greatest revolution in our generation is the discovery that human beings, by changing the inner attitudes of their minds, can change the outer aspects of their lives.” (Levitt, Andrew. 2015). This way adopting such a spatial design that caters to physiological and psychological needs will not only help people interact better but also add more meaning to therapeutic architecture. Practicing such architecture by designing exquisite spaces closely associated with the natural environment will certainly lead to human healing and well-being. The concept of designing Architectural spaces by considering natural factors like sound, light, color, smell and pleasant views certainly connect to human senses and proves to show more ability in the physical and psychological healing of patients. Architectural spaces directly affect human emotions in a way that pleasant Architectural space helps in the natural process of healing.

Maggie Center by Foster+Partners


“Architecture is the masterly, correct magnificent play of masses brought together in light.” Light and color also play a vital role in sensory design in terms of visual effect. Shadows help in representing mass and volume better by way of depth. “In great spaces of architecture, there is constant, deep breathing of shadow and light; shadow inhales, and illumination exhales, light.” (Juhani Pallasmaa, 2012). The sense of vision also gives an opportunity to connect to other human senses at times. When we are hungry and see a photo of a nice cuisine; it certainly connects our vision to other senses of taste and smell. This combination of senses leads to sensory balance; thus bringing different reactions depending on mood. An acoustically designed space will hold a different meaning that non-designed space which brings a lot of echo and sound reflection. The space with no acoustical treatment will be perceived differently than the space with proper acoustical treatment which will certainly be more comfortable and pleasant. One may not see acoustic Architecture but it is significant in our perception and experience of space; apart from our appreciation of space in terms of structure and articulation. These days the old prisons are replaced with modern rehabilitation and correction centers as their motive is not to punish criminals but rebuild them by providing proper counseling and training. Likewise, the hospitals are replaced with health care centers which also provide a soothing and pleasant environment to the patients and lead to faster recovery. Therefore, Architects must associate themselves with therapists and sociologists and discuss the healing capacity of place through design. One must interpret data through the multi-sensory aspect of space through past experiences and memories, which allows making own conclusions on a space with an idea to enhance through different Architectural elements like light, fenestrations, Colors, Materials, etc.

Keys to Making Architecture Memorable – Involve The Senses

2. Role of Architecture in the Healing Process

For better planning and designing of health care centers, architects and researchers have closely observed and tried to analyze the correlation between the physical parameters involved in creating health care centers and their effect on patients health-related outcomes such as patients comfort level, recovery, his length of stay, medication intake, stress levels, etc. Individually examining and studying these parameters on patients of different age groups can actually help in demonstrating how one can design healthy environments and spaces that can reduce stress and anxiety levels and address issues related to patients’ comfort.


Many clinical studies have proven the positive effect of nature and exposure to the outdoors; towards distraction from stress and anxiety levels of patients in a Health care setup. A study published in the American Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Dementias, clearly indicated that for patients suffering from dementia; aggressive behavior associated with a stressful experience could be reduced significantly by the frequent playing of recorded nature sounds. The study by Professor Irving, Biermann, of the University of Southern California has found that when people view scenes that are soothing to mind and eyes and are universally accepted – like beautiful panoramas, sunsets, hill views, a grove of trees- the nerve cells of the brain become active and the brain’s natural painkillers starts flowing thereby reducing the stress levels of the patient and make them calm.



Light plays a critical role in human life and daily affairs that we can hardly imagine our existence without it. It permits one to function at a basic level and it also plays a key factor in our psychological and physiological health.

Importance of Natural Light

In a study conducted, 92% of the patient’s considered sunlight to be pleasurable and calming respectively. Whereas only 2% and 1% of patients considered sunlight to be a nuisance and unfavorable. Whereas, 31% and 35% of the staff members considered sunlight to be pleasurable and calming respectively. Whereas 62% and 26% of staff considered sunlight to be a nuisance and unfavorable. The reports were quite contrasted with patients and staff.


Importance of Artificial Light

The artificial lighting should be highly flexible and adaptable to one’s needs, i.e. it should provide a comforting feel to patients while reading and well illumination to staff for carrying out examination or surgical treatments. Interior designers while designing a house or building should take into consideration the amount and the available type and dimensions of light in design. The job of interior designer is not only restricted to designing but also has to handle the intricacies of important facilities to be provided in medical projects such as proper placement of installation channels and air vents in the ceiling keeping in line with the installation standards and the space lighting.


Ulrich through his work ‘power of the window’ has shown and proven scientifically how the patients in hospital recovered faster when their rooms had a direct view of the external natural environment rather than a blank wall. According to a study the patients who could see and feel nature around (be it in the form of trees or chirping of birds, cool breeze, sunrise, and sunset, etc.), required less narcotic pain medication than the ones who stayed in a room with brick walls and no window.



Colors can have a significant impact on the psyche of patients; certain colors intend to encourage activities, while others promote passive behavior. According to color therapy, colors have the ability to influence many facets of our lives, including our emotions, mental state, mood, and energy level. Each color is considered to be in line with the seven energy centers or chakras. The concept of color therapy is based on the fact that our physiological behavior responds and functions in a predictable defined manner to colors.



Materials too are considered to leave a direct influence on the overall sense of the environment like the ability to affect the sound environment, circulate movement, increase /decrease comfort and various other actions. Building materials used in therapeutic architecture should be carefully chosen – like natural materials if used in such spaces have not only a healing benefit but also an ecological one. If a building is harmonious and close to nature, it has a positive effect on the environment too. By designing spaces that are self-sufficient, “eco-cycle houses,” or agriculture systems, architecture can work with nature in harmony. Using local materials allows for the community to play a role in the construction process, as well. Natural materials that have been handcrafted are unique, which is as appealing as it is authentic.


Blomkvist et al 2005, through his work, has tried to show how the improved acoustics can have a positive effect on the psychosocial environment and how it can contribute towards reducing risks of conflicts and errors in the health care environment. The negative effects of sound and noise are associated with a patient’s slow recovery and increased levels of stress. In a study, Bayonet al.1995 made an observation that the most important noise sources were located primarily inside the hospital and majorly affected the patients’ comfort but had little implications on their recovery. One of the major side effects of a high noise level was on patients’ quality and quantity of sleep. Sources of disturbance that were identified were therapeutic procedures, staff talking, and environmental noises, etc. Most disturbances were noted in the multi-bed unit having multiple patients due to erratic patient interventions by staff, keeping little time for condensed sleep. Moore et al. attempted to provide solutions for multi-bed patient care units by reducing noise levels by 6 dB (A) on average by following procedures such as closing patient doors, a change that patients readily acknowledged. However, an adverse effect was seen in the ICU where closing doors increased noise levels, primarily because of the noise that resonates with equipment within the room. Harris & Reitz 1985 studied the effects of room reverberation and noise on speech discrimination by older adults. They demonstrated that under the same reverberant noisier conditions; the older normal-hearing subjects performed much poorer than younger normal-hearing subjects and a sharp decline by 48% in speech discrimination was observed among older adults with a hearing impairments from the best acoustic condition (quiet + shorter reverberation time (RT)) to poorest (noise + longer RT). For having good effective acoustics in healthcare design, the research implies that ceilings should be made sound-absorbent and reverberation time be shortened so as to reduce noise propagation for increasing speech discrimination among older patients.

It can be concluded that a great amount of forethought and expertise is needed in conceptualizing and designing healing environments. Spaces have a great potential of having a positive impact on the psyche and emotions of people and their relevance has more significance in the context of patients. It requires a great deal of expertise in maintaining a good design balance of the use of light, color, texture, and materials. Interior designers and architects need to recognize how every design component can be explored as an opportunity for impacting the health and well-being of the patients. Today, in the process to recover and heal faster, spaces need to permit the patients to connect with their spirituality. It is considered as an important thread of the treatment.


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Architect - Restorer with major experience in design of buildings and related structures & specialized in rehabilitation & restoration of historical & monumental buildings. My Objective is to utilize my skills and knowledge to solve problems, interact with people and maintain high standards of performance, can work under pressure and flexible in deadlines.