Impact of Mindful Space Design on Social Well-being

The following piece is an abstract of a final paper presented at the International Conference of Creativity and Innovation in Design hosted by the Barreira Arte + Diseno (Valencia, Spain) under the theme ‘Design Challenges’ on 10th & 11th of September 2020.

Keywords: Design for Habits, Design for Memories, Design for Well-being, Social Conditioning, Space Design

Traditionally, space designers have tried to understand activity and function as primary parameters in the design of habitats. With growth in economy and societal lifestyle, this is changing. The role of architects and designers in design of spaces is gradually moving from simply designing for a specific function to designing for social conditioning to create experiences which reflect distinctive user behavior and an acquired and desired social identity that is super-imposed on to the space. There has never been a good time like now for space designers to elevate themselves to being social influencers – by designing spaces for both individual and collective social habits leading to social upliftment of the society.

One of the most important and meaningful activities humans engage in is the creation of a home. A home satisfies our need to anchor identity in matter and helps create a strong bond with our environment through memories. Creating spaces for homes is a demanding process as it requires us to find our way to objects that correctly reflect our identity and spatial elements that assist or alter our living habits. The challenges are multifold with limited land, unskilled labor, limited availability of material topped with financial constraints. This new set of scenarios and target users with a newly acquired social status calls for a new tenet for design of living spaces.

As part of the practice-based design research, I have been designing spaces for families living and building in challenging micro plots and neighborhoods. This paper discusses my approach in understanding present behaviors, future probing and possible germination of healthy habits leading to designing lasting memories through three chosen case studies;

1. House of five brothers – a home designed in Chidambaram (India) for a joint family of 5 brothers, their families and their aged parents in a site measuring 20’x80’.

2. Aminjikarai House – a home designed for a family of 5 consisting of 2 senior citizens, a husband, a wife, a 5-year-old kid and a mentally challenged lady in her late 20’s. The site measures 16’x39’.

3. Ayanvaram House – a home designed for a working couple with their kids living with their aged parents in a challenging neighborhood with a 12’ street front and wall to wall construction (a hybrid slum). The project also comprises a small utility store with two units let out for rent. The site measures 16’x40’. This project specifically discusses the relationship of a family with the street, neighbors, ventilation, acoustic and physical privacy by looking at the role and design of window elements to create a space for oneself and a modern design element as a symbol of social status.

Environmental psychologist Harold Proshanky reveals that being exposed to a certain environment conditions the mind to behave and conduct oneself in a specific predictable way. Family, as a group of people interacting with each other in a certain systemic structured manner, is by definition complex. The relation among its members has different properties that distinctly create a complex system.  This paper discusses how the network of behavioral systems and various nodes of interaction mapped from primary research were probed to come up with new nodes of interactions created by changing circulation patterns of different users through a system of design negotiations that involved interaction of members with function and circulation as well as with the natural elements of air, light and water. This would evolve into a framework to create new environments moving towards an overall social upliftment and wellbeing.

Ar. Hariesh K. Sankaran, Associate Director and HoD, School of Interior & Furniture Design, Unitedworld Institute of Design (UID)

Disclaimer: The opinions / views expressed in this article are solely of the author in his / her individual capacity. They do not purport to reflect the opinions and/or views of the College and/or University or its members.

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