Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Where can I cry?: Providing for Emotionality in the Built Environment

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posted on 2021-12-09, 09:11 authored by Ford, Claire

Increasingly, research suggests that urban life is characterised by rising levels of distress (Söderström, 2017). We exist in a melee of social, political, cultural and environmental constructs, many of which require individuals to repress emotional expression and experiences. Without consciously doing so, we take cues from the designed environment as to what behaviours should be acted out in that space, and this has a direct impact on our well-being. This thesis explores how the built environment can be designed to support the emotional wellbeing of its occupants.  Current practice addressing well-being predominantly looks at cases of severe mental dysfunction (Söderström, 2017) or designing spaces that privilege physical concerns (Jencks & Heathcote, 2010). The research in this thesis is not directed towards such extreme instances of distress; it focuses on the capacity of designed environments to emotionally enable and empower all building users, taking into account a broad spectrum of emotional expression and responses to space. To accomplish this, existing literary research on emotional well-being is traversed and used to inform a series of design explorations. These aim to discover how the design of space can enable occupants to feel supported; to live their emotional lives with complete agency. A conceptual framework is developed, drawing on philosophy, psychology, sociology, neurology and geography, which informs architectural design experiments that test relationships between the body, the mind, and the architecture we engaged with.  This thesis involves a speculative approach to design research. Using design experiments at multiple scales, this thesis explores the potential of moments in the built environment where people have strong emotional connections to space, in order that a consciously compassionate design approach may be developed. Four architectural briefs are explored at three scales - installation, domestic and public scale - allowing design to inform the research. Each investigation is successive and becomes a testing ground to evaluate and critique the design outcomes prior to it. The design tests also involve progressively more architectural and interactive complexity. This sequence of design tests explores the potential of spaces to empower an inhabitant in architectural space to experience joy and sadness; to directly associate architecture with emotional well-ness.


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Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Degree Name

Master of Architecture (Professional)

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Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

Wellington School of Architecture


Twose, Simon