How does the architecture around us affect mental health?

Updated: Sep 14, 2021

Physical environments can have a lasting effect on our mental health. With an increasing number of people living in cities, mental health aspects are not restricted to only medical professionals. Architects, urban planners and interior designers also create an impact through their contributions.


Despite numerous advancements in the field of healthcare, a lot of people in India are still indifferent towards mental health. But, it's not only doctors (psychiatrists and psychologists) and medical professionals (counselors) who play a key role in this space.

Architects, urban planners, interior designers, engineers and real estate developers also tend to have an impact on mental health through their contributions.

The internal factors affecting the mind

According to housing expert, Dr Harald Deinsberger-Deinsweger, ill-conceived and inferior architecture as well as cramped spaces can cause stress, exhaustion and promote physical discomfort. Though this may not always be visible imminently, they have consequences in the long term.

Factors like colors, light, plants, temperature, air quality, construction methods and materials influence the environment and well-being of people. Our senses influence our thinking, feelings and actions and therefore our entire body.

Positive stimulation of our sources can have a calming effect. As a result, spaces can influence our thinking, action patterns and strengthen performance and concentration in activities.

Bright or warm colors in spaced out apartments are always preferable for interiors due to their calming effect, as opposed to dark colors or cramped settings (Image credit: Architectural Digest)

From the perspective of development of our personality and environment, well ventilated units and bright colors create positive stimulation, which can calm the mind, enhance satisfaction levels and boost self-esteem. On the other hand, feeling uncomfortable in spaces, can lead to restlessness or discomfort, lethargy or even discomfort.

The external environment

Housing and social policy researcher, Danny Friedman, also correlated poor housing conditions and neighborhoods to an individual’s prosperity.

Friedman says, “Improving the quality of housing and neighborhoods will have a positive effect in reducing criminality, ill health and advancing educational attainment.”

As per a research study conducted by the scientist Tanja Vollmer, the sick, elderly and younger population spend more time in their living spaces and are strongly influenced by how they are designed and set up. So, aspects like ventilation and sunlight are absolute necessities in residential units. Open spaces like parks and gardens are like an icing on the cake.

Aspects like ventilation and natural lights are absolute necessities in residences, as per the research study conducted by scientist Tanja Vollmer. Representation image (Image credit: The Better India)

Refurbishing homes

Since the majority of the population is spending time at home during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, it is all the more significant to make spaces comfortable.

Innovations on the building structures, improving the building interiors and subtly changing parameters like color, light, smell, sound and temperature, can create the best experience for the individual, within the specific environment.

De-cluttering immediate surroundings is often considered one of the most effective solutions towards improving mental health and reducing unwanted anxiety. While de-cluttering implies cleaning one's cupboard, worktable or any other personal space, transforming them is also achievable.

While the upper image represents disorder in every sense, the lower image portrays a massive transformation not just in the room setup, which will significantly improve mental health for the residing individual (Image credit: Pinimg)

Leading interior designers Pooja and Arbaysis Ashley hail innovation and functionality as the need of the hour.

“The dining space, balcony and living room can all be transformed into a workspace to provide vast volume, outdoor views and an interactive ethos. In order to improve the functionality of these spaces, enrich the micro-environment with colour coding of stationery, souvenirs and indoor plants. Reorganising accessories and art renews the perception of spaces”, say the Ashleys.

Gardening not just transforms an otherwise bland balcony, but it is also a massive mood-lifter during these harrowing pandemic times. Representation image (Image credit: Unsplash Hoang Thanh)


Edited by Roshni Shroff


Some resources and links to help you learn more about architecture affecting our mental health:

  1. Neuro-architecture: How do buildings affect mental health?

  2. 1# ARCHITECTURAL PSYCHOLOGY: The Influence of Architecture on our Psyche