A study of the relationships between architectural environments and human well being : a proposed health and healing centre for Durban.
Breetzke, Lidia Nadia Capellino.
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Most city dwellers simply endure the fast paced lifestyle and the stresses of the urban environment, forging coping strategies daily. The effects of stress and related health conditions are evident throughout the global population and South Africa is no exception. South Africans are not immune to the mental and physical effects of a stressful lifestyle. The modern day life is full of various stresses, including inter alia environmental factors, family pressures, social relations and career and they can all contribute to an increasing set of life demands. Trying to cope with the effects of daily stress is a common situation for most. It may be argued that these challenges in one's life encourage motivation and innovation. However living under constant pressure increases stress and negative emotions which results in the body being in a state of constant ‘emergency mode’ (www.helpguide.org). As an individual takes on more negative stress, the need to seek relief from the effects thereof increases. Although one may think that one is coping with the ever increasing levels of stress and negative energy within one's life, one often does not realise that there is a progressive deterioration in ones mental and physical vitality (www.helpguide.org). This dissertation is aimed at developing an understanding of how architectural environments (from a broad macro-perspective to a micro-specific context) can influence an individual’s stress levels, and can play a positive role in supporting human wellbeing or can have a negative impact and work against the wellbeing of city dwellers. In theory by transforming the range of potentially negative impacts (generated by many urban environments and by the buildings that constitute such environments) architects can assist urban residents to better cope with life’s challenges. In this way other social ills such as domestic violence, suicide, depression and mental illnesses may be reduced (Ozalp et al: 2003; 26-29). This dissertation explores issues from the broad macro-perspectives, the meso context, the microspecific aspect and the interior environment. The macro-perspective component explores genius loci from both negative and positive architectural environments within cities. Some of the negative aspects of cities such as urban sprawl, here reference is made to the Gestalt and Lynchian theories. The meso context addresses the social components and identities of the urban environments, dealing with the issues such as the lack of public space, parks, green spaces and areas for social interaction, and how the Gestalt theory relates to this. The micro-specific context explores the concept of genius loci and the healing properties of water and of landscapes and the increase of sick building syndrome within cities. Lastly an analysis of the interior environment is provided through an exploration of the components of light, colour, texture and materials and their relationship to the Gestalt Theory.