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SARC 331 Assignment two: Aspects of sustainability

The Architecture of Wellbeing Subjective wellbeing and its relation the natural world and other species Thomas Rogers


Table of Contents 1.0



2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3

Social Wellbeing………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. Measure Areas of Social Wellbeing Spatial Meaning

4 4 4 5

3.0 3.1 3.11

Mental Health……………………………………………………………………………………………………………… Mental Asylum Study Seacliff Lunatic Asylum

6 6 6

3.12 3.13 3.14 3.2

Lake Alice Psychiatric Hospital Te Whare o Matairangi Dandenong Hospital Relation

7 7 8 8

4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3

Spiritual Wellbeing……………………………………………………………………………………………………… Churches of Pierto Belluschi The senses Harvested Environments

9 9 9 10

5.0 5.1 5.2

Physical Wellbeing……………………………………………………………………………………………………… Haurora Technology and urban living

10 10 11

6.0 6.1 6.2

Biophilia………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. Biophilia and Natural Process Context Conditioning

11 11 12










The subject of subjective wellbeing is something that is well understood and should now become part of what is accepted and is easily written into regulation, especially with the numerous tangible reports in the area. A less understood aspect of architecture, and probably the one that defines the designer from the regurgitator, is the topic of subjective wellbeing, the creation of place that appeals to everything we are. This report outlines the four constituents of holistic wellbeing and teases out the underlying fact that they all have a huge reliance on nature. These four aspects include; social wellbeing, mental wellbeing, spiritual wellbeing and finally, physical wellbeing. It defines and presents these topics and teases out the link between them. The final section is one that outlines the simple underlying answer that is rapidly being forgotten, that is that we are products of nature and nothing less.



Social Wellbeing:

In ‘The Death and life of Great American Cities’ Jane Jacobs described this as “a feeling for the public identity of people, a web of public respect and trust, and a resource in time of personal or neighbourhood need”(56). This statement suggests interrelation s between people as the key to a healthy community, this could also be defined by the humans desire to interact.



The previous measure of social wellbeing was purely based on objective manifestations. The GDP is the most common example, which is a measure of output and was developed at the end of World War 2 (Bloomberg), which reflected on the strength of the economy in a region and did not reflect the subjective wellbeing i.e. social progress or human happiness (Bloomberg). Jeremy Nalewaik of the American Federal Reserve suggested a combination of the GDP (gross domestic product) and GDI (gross domestic income) as a more accurate measurement of the economic health of a community, but this is still objective and does not take into account the society within which the economy exists. Alex Michalos demonstrates in ‘Statistics, Knowledge and Policy’ that quality of life is affected by many factors including economy, environment and opportunity and that it can also feed back into these inputs (below), this brings us closer to finding a way of measuring social health by breaking it down to the individual. Phillip Morrison presents the result of many surveys carried out to account the happiness, satisfaction and overall quality of life, relating them to specific places and establishing trends that compulsively reflect concepts around the locations and their effects on the individual.

Alex Michalos’ model of wellbeing(page 145)


Areas of social wellbeing

There are seven components to social wellbeing proposed by Jenny Wills in Just, Vibrant and sustainable communities, these are; Arts and cultural development, Community Safety, Economic Development, Environmental sustainability, Housing, Leisure and Recreation, Public and environmental health They are areas that make up the wellbeing of communities and with the right balance of each can provide the necessary environment for any individual to prosper. These aspects can be applied to many scales, from the smallest community through to entire civilizations. They are all intended to 4

drive the four factors of a sense of community; membership, influence, inclusion and fulfilment of needs (Frumkin et al, 161). Many of these publications talk directly about the need for inclusion or membership, which is what happens when an individual has a point of relation and hence a feeling of belonging in their community and are therefore encouraged to contribute. Exclusion or feelings of anonymity can lead to a lack of happiness, dissatisfaction and ultimately negative contributions, for example; crime. This is supported by Morrison’s post-estimated probability that ranks districts in New Zealand by peoples’ happiness. Auckland city, being the largest city, scores the lowest on all counts of wellbeing and this is due to a loss of the crucial ‘sense of place’. Situated within the limits of Auckland, Rodney scores the highest, which is interesting as they know and associate with Auckland city, people often move from the city, yet are not affected by their negativity.


Spatial Meaning

Berry and Okulicz-Kozaryn provide a loose spatial interpretation that links time to density and happiness (below). It is up to the imagination to fill in the blanks about the specifics and is perhaps too broad to be conclusive, however, it clearly points out that the smaller the town, the happier the people are. This will be due to factors such as more permanent residents and perpetual knowledge of community, connection to nature and other aspects that are described more specifically in other sections of this report. Morrison provides a list of contributors to happiness, claiming that high density has a negative effect, and both accessibility to services and social capital (and trust) are both positive contributors. It is interesting then, that Frumkin et al would suggest density as a solution to urban sprawl and the related public health. They do however acknowledge in their ‘Smart Growth’ scheme that this density would be balanced by green space, that allows for the encouragement of people out from their buildings and creates the sense of place within the community.

Happiness vs Density obtained from Berry and Okulicz-Kozaryn

Social wellbeing is the means of appealing to the individual by including them in the process of the community and facilitating their needs respectfully. Positive design on this front can lead to positive connections in the community that go beyond the realms of physical wellbeing while facilitating the possibility for it. The effects on the individual can be profound and compelling.



Mental Health

It would be imagined that when one mentions ‘Mental asylum’, there would be a correlation with architectural spaces that offer some sort of asylum and positive mental image. However, the word ‘asylum’ in our minds is now polluted with oppressive, prison like buildings and mistreatment. Even in New Zealand’s short history, there are examples of these building typologies that are based upon discarding the mentally ill and throwing away the key. This approach is out-dated due to the discoveries that loading people with various concoctions of experimental drugs will surprisingly not lead to any sort of healing.


Mental Asylum Study


Seacliff Lunatic Asylum

Seacliff Lunatic Asylum, built late in the 19th century was the largest building in New Zealand at the time, according to CPINZ. It was a neo-gothic revival style building that was quite clearly built on a very utilitarian impulse. It is described as having a “forbidding appearance and alarming reputation”(TE ARA) which didn’t help with the admittance of patients or their thoughts of recovery or even asylum. Threaded throughout the articles on the asylum are mentions of Sir Truby King, the asylums Medical Superintendent, who made great impacts on the state of care in the asylum by encouraging the patients to the outdoors, this was reflected in his love of gardening (Archives New Zealand). Sir Truby King also imposed a friendlier looking admittance building that stole the focus away from the gothic backdrop, “this resulted in the ‘villa’ design” of mental hospitals “introduced around the country in the 20th century” (Te Ara).

Seacliff Lunatic asylum



Lake Alice Psychiatric Hospital

This hospital, opened in 1950(LAH), was the product of the villa design of mental hospitals. This hospital contained 11 villas for people of varying degrees of mental illness and was situated in farmland Near Lake Alice. The hospital was closed down in the early 1990’s due to the negative image of mental institutions, the knowledge of the practices used by the staff, and also a desire to integrate the patients back into the public (LAH). This negative image of mental hospitals, of suffering and oppression, lead to the spiritual contamination of these buildings. This negative image could not help but spill over into architecture of similar forms.

Lake Alice Psychiatric Hospital


Te Whare o Matairangi

Recently refurbished “Ward 27” and now known as Te Whare o Matairangi, it is said to be “state-ofthe art and at the forefront of the next generation of psychiatric units in New Zealand” according to Maycroft Construction. The ward now demonstrates the integration of new discoveries in the field of mental wellbeing. It includes three new secure outdoor spaces (Maycroft), a music room, a sensory room, a gym, television rooms and communal spaces (Torrie). The ward looks nothing like what people’s perceptions of mental wards are, with a central focus on openness and the outdoor spaces, providing a necessary connection with nature. Even the mode of care is admitted to be “on recovery and returning to everyday life in the community”(Torrie). The refurbishment managed to dispel all concerns about patient safety after reports of serious injury due to people escaping, however, the new design has not moved in the direction of a more secure appearance. The design achieves this security through smart design and the consideration of what the patients require to not feel mental distress or any form of displeasure as a result of the appearance of the building.


Te Whare o Matairangi (


Dandenong Hospital (Australia)

The hospital was designed with the intention to “create a modern, purpose built, facility for the community�(BatesSmart). It is evident in the design of the building that the company relied on the sympathy of natural materials and welcoming open spaces, including lawns, plant boxes and trees, offering a range of vegetation. BatesSmart have worked on a variety of health facilities and clearly have a pedigree in this area, they listed aspects of the design which have given the building the success in its appearance and function. These include; Social interaction, non-institutional design, a sense of place and identity, a safe, calm, therapeutic design and blended interior/exterior environments (BatesSmart). The result of these factors is a beautiful series of places that do not demean the people that occupy it.

Dandenong Hospital (courtesy of BatesSmart)



It can be seen through this brief history of select mental health facilities that the care of people in these states is being taken more seriously and is being the appropriate research and funding. It is of no doubt that the biggest contributor to the success of any sort place in this vein is the inclusion of the consideration of health in not just one aspect, but in the holistic wellbeing of every person. 8


Spiritual Wellbeing:

The third aspect of subjective wellbeing is that of spiritual wellbeing. It is the least definable quality of architecture, but this does not mean there aren’t examples that can lead us in the direction of understanding what it is and its importance. This phenomena of the disconnect between architecture and spirituality is pursued by Norberg-Schulz in ‘Genus Loci’ where he stresses “After decades of abstract scientific theory, it is urgent that we return to a qualitative, phenomenological understanding of architecture”(5). However, for people to accept these qualitative aspects of architecture and spiritual perception, they are going to have to try to cram them into scientific studies and well-reasoned reports. A form of architecture where people seem to be able to leave scientific reason behind in their expression is that of religious architecture, and it reveals a coherent story.


Churches of Pierto Belluschi

The Religious architecture of Pierto Belluschi tells a story of the celebration of nature and scale through touching spaces. One of his churches of note was the Church of the Redeemer in Baltimore that is said to “represent Belluschi’s ideals of church design at their finest” (Clausen, 101). This church proved that on a seriously large scale, natural and relatively unrefined materials can be used to create harmonious spaces and divide this felt building from that of the surrounding, money driven context of the time. Immanuel Lutheran church is where the entrance of marvellously high naves of wood with natural light spilling in from above emphasizing the beauty of the material occurred. This was in stark contrast to most church interiors which seemed devoid of natural lighting and looked to control and subtly celebrate it.

Church of the Redeemer


Immanuel Lutheran Church

The senses

The pictures that portray these spaces, however, are only one part of the experience. There are five traditional senses proposed by Aristotle, being sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch. Some are more important than others when interpreting architecture. These are all very relevant when describing a form of architecture that is designed to communicate directly with peoples’ feelings. Pallasmaa, however, suggests that we have two more senses, being muscle and bone which give scale to space and measure through movement. These senses are said to “internalise a building” (Hovarth). Some may argue that we have this sort of experience with all architecture, which is correct to a degree, but there is an extent to which the body can shut out less desirable spaces, and the place that they are in 9

remains their external environment and is not allowed to pass through. Others may spill into the spirit through the senses and infest it with negativity. One only has to consult within to find out that it is spaces that contain uses of and links to nature that they more freely connect with.


Harvested environments

St Mary’s Cathedral is a building that best describes a phenomenon outlined by Phillip Morison. This is that if someone’s aspiration is higher than the realisation of an experience, they are left feeling dissatisfied, and vice versa. St Mary’s Cathedral lends itself to this explanation due to its nature as a large church in an urban surrounding with an institutional appearing exterior. It is a relief for people when they discover that the interior is a beautiful place that celebrates natural life. The same can be said for most churches and this satisfaction due to a high realization. It certainly helps people to open their senses to the space and let it into themselves. This in turn helps these places to enhance the wellbeing of peoples’ spirits by comforting them in this place in which they feel that they can belong.

Exterior and interior shots of St Marys Cathedral, San Francisco


Physical Wellbeing:

Physical wellbeing is a very objective, well researched and understood principle, it’s importance is recognised globally and there are many organisations that are based around providing for this aspect of wellbeing. There are, however a few key points that must be made for the completeness of this report.



The reason for the inclusion of this aspect is due to the Maori concept of Haurora. This is the philosophy that “well-being encompasses the physical, mental and emotional, social, and spiritual dimensions of health”(TKI). This link between these forms of wellbeing have been related directly to architecture



Technology and Urban living

Studies have related technological advancements and shifts from manual ways of doing things to health issues. Frumkin et al state that, “sedentary lifestyles have emerged as a pressing public health challenge” they further that “consequences have reached epidemic proportions”(91).



The Hypothesis of biophilia is one that is central in wellbeing as it transcends every single aspect; mental, physical, social and even spiritual. It is a hypothesis proposed by Edward O Wilson, who describes it simply as “the innate tendency to focus on life and lifelike process”(Wilson).

“Evidence of the emotional and psychological benefits of nature is mounting and impressive (research shows its ability to reduce stress, to aid recovery from illness, to enhance cognitive skills and academic performance, to aid in moderating the effects of ADHD, autism and other child illnesses). Recent research suggests even that we are more generous in the presence of nature; all these values are in addition to the immense economic value of the ecological services provided by natural systems.”(Beatley).

Biophilia is a term very important to architecture as with this adherent research, it should make and sell architectural designs. This point was illustrated by senior digital editor at NOVA, Tim de Chant who posed the question “can we please stop drawing trees on top of skyscrapers?” a phenomena in which a vast quantity of skyscrapers were rendered with unconsidered trees thrown at them. De Chant pointed out that these trees would be the first things to go when the developer considers return on investment (De Chant).

Images of the epidemic from De Chants Archdaily



Biophilia and natural processes

The hypothesis makes sense to a variety of natural processes that go on in our bodies. One that is less considered but highly important is the sleeping process. The Circadian rhythm is affected by light falling on the retina (or rather, not falling on the retina), it acts as a cue for the body to release a chemical called Melatonin which enables us to engage in a healthy sleep-wake cycle (Circadin). This relation to nature is proven and known, it is an accepted fact that “getting adequate, high-quality sleep is one of the most important, yet under-appreciated steps you can take to improve your overall health and wellbeing”(Kresser). An architect that has engaged very appropriately with this process is Taira Nischizawa, who designed a building that directs morning sunlight to the bed, waking the inhabitants up (below). At midday, it focuses on the kitchen bench to allude to the time of eating.

Natural light and the bed (Taira Nischizawa)


Context Conditioning

This is a psychological theory that offers explanation to the Hypothesis of Biophilia. Context conditioning is described as “the process in which contextual information becomes associated with another stimulus” (Gould). This means that environmental conditions can cue specific reactions in people. It is related to biophilia because Wilson describes it as “a “complex of learning rules” developed over thousands of years of evolution and human-environment interaction” (Beatley), hence, stimulus associated with the natural environment. It is likely that this is the case when considering how young the developed world actually is, especially New Zealand which is one of the most recently established countries. This concept opens a lot of questions as to whether people can become detuned from nature, which is likely in highly populated areas with pavement rather than grass.




The complexity of humans is imposed by all these new technologies that, as outlined, can really affect the essence of our beings. Or rather it can wash it away, in a sea of too much. We can be viewed through Wilsons lens as notoriously simple, with a little knowledge about where we come from. This revelation will ensure that we no longer have an excuse for buildings that in a few years become substandard and are demolished, abandoned as a bad venture. It aims to reconnect humans with nature and each other, a principal that guides them through any problem; it can ultimately regenerate what industrialization has crushed. If humans can see what it is that they are destroying before it is gone, maybe they will take a step back from profit and ask how they can solve it. The question that results from this is simple in response: Which would you rather become attuned to: the nature that you come from or the machine that destroys that?


Works Cited Archives New Zealand. (10, 05 11). Buildings and Grounds of Seacliff Lunatic Asylum. Retrieved 05 02, 2013, from Archives New Zealand: din+Regional+Office+Gallery/Being+at+Seacliff+Lunatic+Asylum/Buildings+and+Grounds/ BatesSmart. (2013). Dandenong Hospital. Retrieved 05 01, 2013, from Batessmart: Beatley, Timothy. (2010). Biophilic cities. Retrieved 04 15, 2013, from Biophilic cities: What are they?: Bloomberg. (2013, 01 31). GDP: An imperfect Measure of Progress. Retrieved 05 01, 2013, from Bloomberg view: Circadin. (n.d.). Mole of Melatonin in sleep. Retrieved 05 01, 2013, from Circadin: Clausen, M. L. (1992). Spiritual Space. Washington: University of Washington press. CPINZ. (2013). Haunted Location > Seacliff Lunatic asylum. Retrieved 05 01, 2013, from Paranorma linvestigators: De Chant, T. (2013, 03 21). Can We Please Stop Drawing Trees on Top of Skyscrapers? Retrieved 05 02, 2013, from Archdaily: Frumkin, H., Frank, L., & Jackson, R. (2004). Urban Sprawl and public Health. Washington DC: Island Press. Gould, D. T. (2013). Context Conditioning. Retrieved 04 20, 2013, from Springer Reference: Hovarth, N. (2010). Architecture and Enlightenment. Retrieved 05 01, 2013, from Unitec Research Bank: h%20(Prof).pdf?sequence=1 Jacobs, J. (1961). The Death and Life of Great American Cities. New York: Random House. Kresser, C. (2013, 02 22). How artificial light is wrecking your sleep, and what to do about it. Retrieved 04 20, 2013, from Chris Kresser: LAH. (2013). Lake Alice Hospital Psychiatric Ward. Retrieved 05 02, 2013, from Lake Alice Hospital Website: 14

Maycroft Construction. (2012). Wasrd 27, Wellington Hospital. Retrieved 05 01, 2013, from Maycroft Construction and Management: Michalos, A. C. (2007). Connecting Communities with Community Indicators. In OECD, Statistics, Knowledge and Policy (pp. 134-145). OECD Publishing. Morrison, P. S. (2013, 04 19). Subjective Wellbeing. VSLT1 Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand. Norberg‐Schulz, C. (1980.). Genius Loci: Towards a Phenomenology of Architecture. New York: Rizzoli. Okulicz‐Kozaryn, B. a. (2011). An urban‐rural happiness gradient. UrbanGeography. Te Ara. (2013). Story: Mental Health Services. Retrieved 05 01, 2013, from Te Ara, Encyclopedia of New Zealand: TKI. (2010). Well-being, Haurora. Retrieved 05 01, 2013, from Te Kete Ipurangi: Torrie, B. (2012, 07 02). Ward opens after $7.8m make-over. Retrieved 05 02, 2013, from Stuff: Wills, J. (2001). Just, Vibrant & Sustainable Communities. Townsville: Local Government Community Services of Australia.

(Clausen, 1992) (Beatley, Timothy, 2010) (De Chant, 2013) (Circadin) (Kresser, 2013) (Gould, 2013) (BatesSmart, 2013) (Torrie, 2012) (Maycroft Construction, 2012) (LAH, 2013) (Archives New Zealand, 10) (Te Ara, 2013) (CPINZ, 2013) (TKI, 2010) (Jacobs, 1961) (Michalos, 2007) (Bloomberg, 2013) (Okulicz‐Kozaryn, 2011) (Norberg‐Schulz, 1980.) (Hovarth, 2010) (Morrison, 2013)


The architecture of wellbeing  

An essay on the importance of spiritual wellbeing in the subject of sustainability. Draws on examples in the New Zealand context.

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