Social Architecture and its Impact on Mental Wellbeing

Martin Breen

School of Architecture, University of Limerick (SAUL)
Tags Community, Mental Health, Urban infill
Year 2020


Architecture has the power to influence our lives in a profound and impactful way. Conscious and considered design has the ability to alter the way we think and behave, therefore affecting the way we feel. Design has proven its ability to assist in recovery or prolong the suffering of people dealing with mental health issues. Our growing understanding and awareness of mental illness and its complexity has helped destigmatize many mental disorders. The aim of my thesis is to research and implement architectural techniques and designs that promote positive mental health in urban areas.

The overarching aim of my thesis is to create a community within an existing area that promotes interaction between individuals. A driving force behind my thesis is the prevalence of loneliness and the feeling of isolation in many communities today. This is a growing issue that is incredibly hard to properly identify and has only been pushed to the forefront of the public consciousness in recent years. Intense loneliness has been proven to lead to depression and anxiety as well as many other mental illnesses, which I will explore further throughout my thesis. Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) is a relatively new practice which involves mindful and meditative techniques. Studies over the last thirty years have shown the positive impact MBCT has on patients suffering from various mental illnesses. By using similar techniques within architecture, I intend to explore how we can design spaces that benefit mental health on a community level.

The site I have chosen to work with is an existing carpark on Ellen Street in Limerick City centre. The space has an interesting and dynamic history in terms of use. St. Michael’s church and a derelict 1800s corn store sit to the west of my site while retail bookmarks the space to the east and west. The parallels between my research and the existing church create an interesting dynamic which I will explore further throughout my thesis.

My intention is to create a space within the city that can cater for a variety of demographics, promoting social interaction, mindfulness, communication and cultural/spiritual growth. For this reason, I have chosen a sculpture gallery as the focal point of my project. This will also include community rooms, a meditative garden, a food hall and a small number of rental workspaces.


c1 Ellen St, Prior's-Land, Limerick, Ireland