Everyone’s mental health story is different, but we all share common needs. As a designer, we must imagine how architecture can impact the lives of individuals. Our buildings should be a resource that allows people to engage with each other. This should be considered now more than ever as we come back to an office environment after months of isolation during the pandemic. As we continue to discuss the future of our office, we must provide spaces for privacy as we have grown to appreciate the benefit of uninterrupted individual work-time and the need for personal-time to recharge our mind. An environment that offers room connect and a quiet room for reflection is critical.
Other important considerations are the need for daylighting, ventilation, and views to nature. The right amount of natural light can improve mood and reduce fatigue. This can be accomplished through controlled horizontal light and overhead light. Further, views connecting us to natural environments can reduce stress as well as prevention from eye strain. Being able to open a window to feel, hear and smell the outside can increase comfort and the allow for the benefit of personal autonomy, a small sense of control in our seemingly uncontrollable world. Not to mention, a space that offers an outdoor area that allows you to re-energize is necessary. A well-designed outdoor space can provide flexible spaces to gather or nooks for privacy. These spaces can also provide access to light or shade from the sun. Adding vegetation and water can be a welcoming and restorative distraction from the hum of the office.
Architecture can have a positive impact on our sense of being. It can stimulate, or it can calm. In either case, it is essential to understand how design can affect the mental health of the users.