A Remedy for Wilting: Therapeutic Architecture for Restoring the Mental Health of University Students

Laura McKeown

[email protected]
Page Header Image 1
Floor Plan Level 1

In 2018 the New Zealand Government released the Kei Te Pai? and He Ara Oranga reports, which emphasised the immediate need for better mental health support systems around the country. University students' mental health has long been in a state of crisis. This thesis stems from a need to challenge conventional mental health care and establish architecture which prompts interventions at the early stages of loneliness, stress, anxiety and depression, as opposed to the current 'bottom of the cliff interventions' - a system that can lead to self-harm and suicide.

Inspired by Maggie Keswick Jencks's description of 'wilted people', 'A Remedy for Wilting' compares the wilting of plants under poor environmental conditions with the mental states of university staff and students. This metaphor recognises that mental health is fluid and continually transforming. Hence, our healthcare architecture should address people at every stage of mental wellness and realise people's unique health needs.

The proposed respite centre sits on the foundations of Old Government House at the University of Auckland City Campus - one of the few green spaces rich in heritage, in an otherwise concrete jungle. By interweaving with nature, the design stands as a three-stage triage system which meets students' everyday mental health, long-term counselling and crisis support needs.

This thesis takes the stance that although architecture alone cannot cure mental illness, it can create opportunities for various forms of healing and establish conditions for forming positive social connections. The triage system follows a series of patterns to assist the recovery of those who are wilting: those feeling the effects of stress, anxiety and in danger of self-harm.

Inspired by Christopher Alexander's 'A Pattern Language', the patterns in this project respond to social behaviours exhibited by people experiencing anxiety, loneliness, depression, self-harm and suicidal ideation. In creating a user-centred design, the architecture strives to establish environments where people feel safe to ask for help.

Promo Image Portrait
Key Issue - Bottom of the Cliff Services
Restriction Surveillance And Isolation 1462
Key Issue - Surveillance, Restriction and Isolation
Recesses Of The Mind 1462 Width
Key Issue - Reccesses of the Mind
A Place To Panic 798
A Place to Panic
Loggia For Loneliness 798
Social Connections Through Architecture
Site Plan 2460
Site Plan
Floor Plan 2460
Floor Plan - Level 1
Floor Plan Level 2 2460 Px
Floor Plans - Basement and Level 2
Rendered Section 2460
Centre Section
Perspective 2460
Centre Front Entrance