Guiding the human psyche
Colleges in the United States today are facing a mental health crisis. Nearly one-third of students are diagnosed with a mental health condition, which is only aggravated by the stress of college environments. The alarming rate of student suicides indicates a need for increased support from institutions. Despite recent efforts across the nation to improve the accessibility and outreach of existing services, on-campus resources cannot sufficiently meet student needs. As a result, the majority of students suffering from mental and emotional distress are not receiving any form of counseling or treatment. Individuals who live with a serious mental illness are at higher risk for chronic medical conditions and typically have a shorter life expectancy, making treatment for these mental disorders essential to their well-being. Architecture offers an opportunity to influence human behavior and cognition by exposing people to different worlds from their own. This thesis investigates the power of manipulating architectural atmospheres in affecting human perception. Experiencing a space is more than the visual perception of aesthetics and form; it involves the sensory experience of the body to evoke an emotional and physical response (Goodwin). Spatial qualities, like materiality, lighting, color, degree of enclosure and proportioning, contribute to the sensory experience of a space, informing how people feel in it. Manipulating these qualities to produce a sequence of spatial experiences, representative of a range of mental states, can help everyday people empathize with those suffering from mental illnesses, while offering an outlet for those with a mental health condition.