Chisenhale Mental Wellness Centre
I designed a Mental Wellness facility within an existing building in Bow, Tower Hamlets. The project is titled ‘Chisenhale Mental Wellness Centre’ and focuses on the idea of healing and treating mental illness within the borough of Tower Hamlets in order to increase wellness and decrease stigma. The concept is based around integrating nature into everyday life and harnessing its healing properties through interaction with nature and use of natural materials. In the borough, over 10% of the population suffer with a form of mental illness and there is just one mental health facility. The borough also has a high prevalence of risk factors such as deprivation and poverty. Therefore, the aim of this programme is to provide a therapeutic mental wellness centre designed for healing. A place to disconnect, talk with others and rebalance. Things that are all too rare in today’s world.
The centre provides a place for healing and recovery, with individual and group areas, as well as exercise spaces, treatments and private overnight rooms. There is a focus on clean air, nature and natural light – all of which have been proven to improve mental wellness. The building is also designed to reduce air pollution levels and increase biodiversity, two other global problems we face today. Visitors are known not as patients but rather, as people. Mental wellness is the focus; acknowledging the fragile nature of the mind and allowing people a place to heal without shame, surrounded by healing design. I have created, and followed, my own 8-point design framework in order to design optimally for mental wellness and healing; this framework includes points such as interaction with nature, access to natural light, and use of softwood. The entire design, from the wider structure, right down to the material details, is focussed on creating a healing environment that encourages mental wellness.
The building was required to be designed to be carbon zero in its operation, meaning I therefore had to design and building that would be energy efficient and sustainable. Utilising the existing structure helped me achieve this as it already been built and embodied a certain amount of carbon, and I was able to make it more efficient by insulating it and increasing u-values.
For the new part of the proposal which I designed, this was made entirely of Glulam and timber. Not only is this a carbon-neutral material and a carbon store, but it also helped to achieve my aim of mental wellness; timber is scientifically proven to decrease stress, anxiety and depression levels, calming the central nervous system
The entire proposal and final building design was centered around creating a safe and comfortable place to heal and achieve mental wellness, with every aspect of the design, from access to light to materiality and the integration of nature, carefully planned to help achieve this.
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