Elementary architecture : architecture as a mechanism for alleviating mental health illness

Thumbnail Image
Other Title
Dinkha, Sarkies
Author ORCID Profiles (clickable)
Master of Architecture (Professional)
Unitec Institute of Technology
Chaplin, David
Masters Thesis
Ngā Upoko Tukutuku (Māori subject headings)
asylum architecture
psychiatric asylums
Whau Lunatic Asylum (Mount Albert, Auckland, New Zealand)
Hyman Park (Manukau City, New Zealand)
health architecture
patient needs
Dinkha, S. (2017). Elementary architecture: architecture as a mechanism for alleviating mental health illness. An unpublished research project submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Architecture Professional, Unitec Institute of Technology, New Zealand.
“As an architect you design for the present, with an awareness of the past, for a future which is essentially unknown.” http://www.ilikearchitecture.net/2012/07/quote-17- norman-foster/ Psychiatric hospitals over the years have been the subject of severe criticism from patients, the general public, local government and designers. This debate in recent times has overseen the major transformation of the older institutional hospitals into community-based mental health care. As a result, modern day mental health care facilities have addressed one issue, community-based care, and forgotten about other architectural aspects such as efficiency and a functional interior. In other words, the current community-based mental health units lack the total architecture that connects with patients for the betterment of their health. Architecture has the power to heal its occupants. People spend a significant amount of their lives indoors; therefore, the importance of architecture as a trigger to physical and psychological wellbeing must become a topic of significant relevance to all designers. Spaces within a hospital must be engaging when needed and comfortable, with abundant of views and natural light. Architects must generally look at five key areas when designing a hospital or any building for that matter, these include: safety, social connectedness, ease of movement and sensory stimulation. For instance, light has the ability to influence people’s mood, “it helps the human body to stimulate the body's production of the neurotransmitter serotonin, which can reduce the symptoms of depression.” http://www.independent.co.uk/life- style/design/how-architecture-uses-space-light-and- material-to-affect-your-mood-american-institute- architects-a6985986.html So often architects and the local governments have neglected the specific needs of mental health patients. The current modern day community-based mental health units are not purpose built with a very little investigation into the lives and daily movements of patients and staff members. This research project will therefore look into ways of adapting a new architectural design that appeals to all human senses. It is of vital importance to first and foremost understand what kind of tasks people perform within a hospital; these needs may include being alone and sometimes being with others. For a mental health unit it is also important to recognise the difference between public, semi-public and private spaces; the separation and the movement from one space to another must be precise. Furthermore, there is the external landscape and how it connects to the indoor space to consider. All these design aspects play a key role in the final outcome of the building and architects must therefore be flexible to experience what they are designing for themselves
Link to ePress publication
Copyright holder
Copyright notice
All rights reserved
Copyright license
Available online at