Architectural beauty for greater well-being

When we experience a meaningful merger of function and aesthetics, it increases our well-being. This is shown by research from Australia, for example.

Architectural beauty and design play such a major role that they are weighted in the US WELL Building Standard, which focuses on health and well-being.

When architecture delights the eye, it also helps to strengthen the mind and promote a sense of community. This is precisely why beauty and design are weighted as two of the criteria – or ‘features’ – of the WELL certification scheme.

The US certification was established in 2014 and focuses on the impact of the built environment on human health and well-being. WELL is often used in conjunction with more technical sustainability certifications such as DGNB, LEED and BREEAM.

Many international researchers have studied the link between beautiful architecture and our well-being. In one article, Rose Winer, Director (Standard Development) at the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI), looks at a range of the research results. In the article, she elaborates on why beauty and design count for so much in the certification process.

Context determines what is beautiful

Rose Winer quotes Australian artist and designer Jay Dee Dearness, whose PhD thesis examines the link between beauty and design.

“Beauty is not aesthetics alone,” says Dearness. Rather, “beauty is the melding of functionality and aesthetics in just the right proportions to achieve the desired result”.

The recipe for “the right proportions” depends on the context in which the building is created – and those who use it. A good connection between function and design will most probably be perceived differently by employees in a German office building to the way it is perceived the residents of a Danish nursing home.

“The Beauty and Design feature in WELL encourages projects to incorporate beauty according to their own context – whether through highlighting local artists, cultures, materials or organisational values that make that space a uniquely beautiful and enjoyable environment for local occupants,” Rose Winer points out in her article.

Weighted in two features

The WELL certification (WELL v1) operates with seven concepts: Air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort and mind. Each concept includes a number of criteria (features). The two beauty and design features both belong to the concept of mind.

The soft and contextual parameters make up one of these two features. Feature 87 (out of 105) in the WELL scheme emphasises five subpoints:

a. Human delight.
b. Celebration of culture.
c. Celebration of spirit.
d. Celebration of place.
e. Meaningful integration of public art.

The Beauty and Design II feature – Feature 99 – covers more objective parameters such as ceiling height, meaningful integration of art into larger spaces (including lobbies/entrance halls) as well as elements or materials that create recognition and make it easier for people to find their way around in larger buildings.

Troldtekt makes a positive contribution to Feature 99 – and also to 19 of the other WELL certification features.

>> Read more about Troldtekt’s contribution to WELL

Eminent: Well-being in the work environment

Eminent in the Swedish city of Malmö is the first WELL-certified office building in Scandinavia. Among other things, the offices boast locally produced food, partly grown on the roof terrace, art and design to entice people to take the stairs, well-equipped underground bicycle parking, a nearby fitness centre, light therapy and stress-relieving music.

These are all elements that are rarely allowed to weigh as heavily on the drawing board as the factors traditionally known to promote a healthy working environment and indoor climate.

Kanozi Arkitekter are the designers behind Eminent, and architect SAR/MSA Åsa Jentsch says about the project:

– The WELL certification incorporates softer values which are very much in line with what we as architects wish to bring into the projects. By working with WELL throughout the design process, we created a new framework for talking about things like natural lighting, a strong connection between the indoor and outdoor environments and sculptural, prominent stairs. The entire team of architects, engineers, contractors and builders suddenly started discussing and appreciating the human aspects of the building and its design.

>> Read more about the WELL-certified Eminent office building in Malmö, Sweden

THEME: Design and Innovation in Architecture

Innovation must ensure that architecture is constantly evolving – functionally and aesthetically. Most people spend 80-90 per cent of their time indoors, and when function and design complement one another, it can make a big difference to people’s daily lives and well-being.

For this very reason, aesthetics and design are weighted in several of the leading sustainable building certification schemes. You can read more about this on this theme page, where architects talk about their innovative approach to design.