Private and public spaces of hope in architecture and therapy

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Chris Wood


This paper is about the links between public and private space, the possibilities for increasing these and the impact that they can have on physical and mental health. A range of professional practice disciplines contribute to improving the health of populations. The paper focuses upon the role of architects who design the threshold between public and private space and art therapists who help people negotiate and cross these thresholds. It considers some of the ways architecture and art therapy might work together with other disciplines to help secure the basis for health.

The main argument is about the need in cities for actual space to practice art therapy. Architects might be interested in designing city art therapy studios and art therapists might help vulnerable people to use them as a symbolic threshold between the private and the public. Time spent using art therapy can assist with empowerment and recovery for people with mental health issues, helping them to live fuller lives and when there is a need, engage with other services.

Another version of this paper was originally presented at The Tunghai University 2012 International Forum of Healthcare and Therapeutic Design in Taiwan. The conference provided a platform for thinking about the relationship between architecture and therapeutic health care and some of the proceedings including another version of this paper (pages 013-035) were published in the Journal of Art and Design (JAD, 2012, no 2)

I offer acknowledgement to colleagues who took time out, to talk this through with me, and also to Laura Richardson (Art Therapist) and Jenny Fortune (Architect) for their very thoughtful peer reviews.

Keywords: architecture; art therapy; the impact of space on health in large cities

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