Design Thesis Projects 2018 - 2019
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ARCHITECTURE AS A HEALING MECHANISM: BUILDING THE LINK BETWEEN HUMAN AND PLANETARY HEALTH

Jessica Westervelt
Advisor: Lacelot Coar

In recent years, the magnitude of the climate change crisis has really come to light with reports and information being distributed widely. Suggestions from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) about the trajectory of the environmental damage are daunting and frightening. At the same time mental health struggles are becoming commonplace and many people are struggling with a variety of issues and illnesses. Estimates suggest that by 2020, mental health disorders will rise to 15% of the global burden of disease.1

This thesis aims to explore the connection between mental health and planetary health, and the potential positive effects that they could have on each other. The Mental Health Foundation states that the natural environment is fundamentally important to both our physical and psychological wellbeing, so actions that promote and protect our natural environment help to increase our ability to flourish in life.2 They also acknowledge the importance of natural environment to health and recommend that those calling for better health outcomes consider becoming more engaged in the protection and promotion of the natural environment.3

Exploring this idea through architecture, the thesis project will aim to create a housing complex that considers the connection between people and nature, focusing on how this connection will benefit both parties. Centering on the community of Elmwood in Winnipeg, I will be attempting to measure the impact of the project on both the health of the residents, as well as the impact on the environment. Expected or perceived well-being based on research, alongside stats and numbers on the impact of the building (construction and operation) will help me in determining the most effective and influential strategy to optimize both the psychological and environmental experiences.


Images:

1.    Exterior render during fall; man tills the garden
2.    Exterior render during winter; people skating on ice rink
3.    Interior render in seventh floor communal area
4.    Interior render on third floor circulation space
5.    1:100 model of building on site
6.    Diagram showing rainwater collection, geothermal radiant floor heating and food production systems

Notes:

1Maller, C., Townsend, M., Pryor, A., Brown, P., & St Leger, L. (2005, December 22). Healthy nature healthy people: ‘contact with nature’ as an upstream health promotion intervention for populations. Health Promotion International, 21(1).
2Mental Health Foundation. (2011). The relationship between sustainable environmental practices and positive mental health. Retrieved from Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand: https://www.mentalhealth.org.nz/assets/ResourceFinder/MHF-policy-paper-sustainability-and-flourishing-2-.pdf
3Ibid


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