Well-Being in the Architectural Design Studio

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


Recent research has shown that environmental phenomena have powerful psychological and physiological effects on human beings. These include the impact of space and form, proportion and scale, natural and artificial light levels and qualities, texture, colour and materiality. Further issues for designers include opportunities for meaningful social engagement, integration of art, connections to nature, olfactory and aural phenomena and sensorial variation.
In the Well-Being studio at ESALA students work both collectively and individually to interrogate concepts, issues and theories which underpin the relationship of buildings, places and people. Particular urban places and buildings are critically analysed in relation to this ‘Well-Being’ agenda. Issues elicited as fundamental to the people/ environment dialectic by the studio include:
• Environmental qualities and their impact upon physical experience and health.
Including an understanding of what constitutes ‘qualities of environment’ scientifically. Design for the senses encompassing the impact of sensory variation and connections to nature, (Pallasmaa, 2005).
• Architecture and its potential impact upon our psychological and emotional well-being.
Meaning in architectural form and space, (Norberg-Schulz, 1980) self and community memory and identity, place identity and attachment, (Canter, 1977). Understanding primordial responses to the body in space. How can Architecture make meaning from our life experience?
• Body-Space. (Borden, 2001)
Including the impact of landscape on bodily movement and posture, the impact of the body on architectural space and the performative nature of the body-space dialectic.
• Social space, including spatial politics.
Knowledge of the different forms and scales of social space from the personal to the urban. If social behaviours are generally prescribed by the desired social ends of the owner, (Lefebvre, 1996), how might this be transformed by designers in ways which lead to creative production rather than consumption?
• Theories of perception. (Merleau-Ponty, 1945).
Understanding how we perceive the world and its phenomena and how this may affect the way we think as designers.
From this research students then create their own phenomenological manifesto and programme for an architectural project which responds in a structural way to the physical, historical, social, cultural and economic forces which exist in a particular place. Through this preparatory vehicle, experiential goals for the exploration are defined for the project at the outset. Completed projects are then critically analysed to ascertain their success in designing for the enhancement of the human experience.

Borden I. ‘Skateboarding Space and the City - Architecture and the Body’. (Berg: Oxford, New York, 2001)
Canter D. ‘The Psychology of Place’. (Architectural Press: London, 1977)
Lefebvre H. ‘Writings on Cities’. (Blackwell: London, 1996)
Merleau-Ponty M. ‘The Phenomenology of Perception’. 1945. (Routledge; London, 1962)
Norberg-Schulz C. ‘Genius-Loci: Towards a Phenomenology of Architecture’. (Rizzoli: New York, 1980)
Pallasmaa J. ‘The Eyes of the Skin – Architecture and the Senses’. (Wiley: New York, 2005)
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages2
Publication statusPublished - 29 Jun 2012
EventIAPS 22ND Annual Conference, Glasgow 2012 - , United Kingdom
Duration: 24 Jun 201229 Jun 2012


ConferenceIAPS 22ND Annual Conference, Glasgow 2012
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


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