Residential architecture and atmosphere: what is the impact on wellbeing and health?
Paper in proceedings, 2016
Research within healthcare architecture has shown that how our built environment is designed affects our healing capacities (Sternberg 2009, Ulrich 1984). However, we still need to develop a detailed knowledge about how residential architecture influence our wellbeing, in light of the growing knowledge of how spaces influence our emotions and physical reactions, eventually acting on our abilities to heal and our health (Sternberg 2009). This case study recognizes this need, and investigates the architecture of the home and how it affects the residents´ sense of wellbeing and health.
To understand the interplay between human being and the built environment, we use the concept of atmosphere, which has been proposed as a way to describe architectural quality (Zumthor 2006). In a previous study, this concept was adopted to perform a semantic concept analysis in a residential architecture context, and the results from that analysis will form the theoretical basis for parts of this investigation.
The aim of this case study is to illuminate the connections between residential architecture, atmosphere, well-being and health in a small residential area located in a rural community in western Sweden. This area has been selected for its high quality residential architecture and sustainable material construction. All the adult residents of the eighteen housing units will be invited to participate to semi-structured interviews, possibly combined with follow up in-depth interviews, to generate rich data for the analysis of quality of architecture and health. Perceived quality of architecture will be investigated through the semantic concept analysis of atmosphere, as described above. Health and wellbeing as perceived by the participants will be investigated by using the WHO (1948) definition of health and Antonovsky’s (1991) theory of salutogenesis, which will inform both the interview questions and the analysis of the data.
The residential area which is the focus of this study was selected because it was developed with the clear ambition to build high quality residential architecture, using only natural and sustainable building materials. The architecture is marked by a careful detailing, generic rooms for multifunction purpose and room sequencing, creating effects such as sightlines and different routes for moving and circulation. The houses also offer different levels of privacy in relation to the surroundings. Great effort has been put in handling the use of daylight in a beautiful way. The project was conceived departing from the assumption that high quality architecture might contribute to the decrease of the ongoing population decline, attracting people to stay or even move to the community. The project also had the ambition to embrace existing knowledge about the importance of high quality environments for people´s sense of wellbeing and health. Thus, this area seemed ideal for the aims of this study.
The results from the study will contribute to a better understanding of the connections between residential architecture, wellbeing and health. This knowledge can be applied in future residential architecture design processes.
well-being & health