Nurturing Architecture: Practice, Architecture Education and Wellbeing. 

Definition: b. In extended use: to care for and encourage the growth or development of; to foster, cultivate. Also: to cherish or treasure within oneself (a hope, feeling, etc.).

Nurturing Architecture explores architecture as both processes and constructions with an ethos of care, of providing nourishment and of supporting growth and development. The term allows multiple interpretations which include ‘architecture that nurtures’ and/or the ‘nurturing of architecture’ as well as implying an exploration of the way in which we might ‘nurture architects’ by caring for future (and current) architects in education and practice. Inherent in these responsibilities is the notion of wellbeing, and the way in which as architects and educators we consider the wellbeing of future and current generations of  users and other stakeholders, as well as the future and current wellbeing of our community of architects and students. 

It is important to emphasize here that wellbeing is not just about healthcare buildings. Wellbeing is a much broader and diffuse concept; wellbeing is a positive aspiration, a means to living well [1]: an everyday resource that enables people to lead individually, socially and economically productive lives [2]. Wellbeing is often associated with nurturing the prospect of flourishing: “the experience of life going well… feeling good and functioning effectively” [3]. Wellbeing is analogous with aspects of social sustainability and is embedded in design approaches such as: co-design, participatory design, live projects and community engagement as well as many other innovative and interdisciplinary approaches to embedding socially-aware and ethical design-values in the process of education. 

The design of the built environment can contribute towards many positive aspects of subjective mental health including: self-actualization, the will to meaning, individuation or happiness [4]. The themes interweave across disciplines and boundaries particularly: digital wellbeing; collective and social wellbeing; commodification of mental health; identity, individuation and isolation; the circular economy and the role of the humanities. The conference welcomes contributions about all of these issues where there might be positive outcomes to stakeholders, the environment or wider society. 

Architecture that nurtures

Exploring an ‘architecture that nurtures’ suggests critically exploring the potential impacts and influences that architecture might have. This theme relates to the mechanisms through which the built environment, educational landscapes and the research/knowledge context might be a force for nurturing healthy, resilient, democratic communities. At a theoretical and pedagogical level, the theme encourages exploration of ethics and values, raising issues such as: 

  • Do architectural spatial actions that hinder the wellbeing in society emerge from contemporary political and capitalist mechanisms? 
  • How do agency, architecture and wellbeing interact? 
  • Do ethically-aware educational strategies align with or challenge the dominant ideological and philosophical theories? 
  • How might architectural praxis nurture the wellbeing of the users and the health of the planet? 

Nurturing Architecture

The ‘nurturing of architecture’ opens the debate to the role of the profession in developing, improving, updating, protecting and caring for the discipline of architecture. Recent debates around an expanding field of architectural expression introduce disciplines such as landscape, fashion, fine arts, dance, theatre, music, philosophy, robotics and artificial intelligence, urban futures and gamification among others to the architecture arena. The emergence of these innovative interdisciplinary approaches is changing the existing landscape of the architectural profession. The nurturing of architecture (as a profession, as an industry and as a pedagogical context) requires support, consensus and collaboration as well as critique and dissensus in order to remain relevant to contemporary challenges. This raises potentially provocative and radical concerns, such as: 

  • • How might the architecture profession address issues such as health and wellbeing in a neo-liberal market economy? 
  • • What is the implication for live projects as disruptive forces in terms of nurturing pedagogic praxis? 
  • • Will the involvement of a new generation of diverse politically-active architects affect the professional bodies? 
  • • How can the discipline of architecture adapt, evolve and change in order to remain relevant and responsive?

Nurture Architects

As architects, architecture students and architecture educators we are educated to consider our clients, users and the society of which we are a part. Alongside this however we also need to consider our role in nurturing the individuals, students but also academics, who make up the schools of architecture and the profession. Architecture education has long been thought of as a process with a potentially detrimental effect on both mental and physical health and wellbeing. The challenge of how to nurture and care for a diverse range of students and academics in a way that also pursues excellence in architectural design is an ongoing challenge. This again raises potentially radical pedagogic and professional concerns, such as: 

Is architecture teaching and learning making students and academics sick?

How does the wellbeing of architecture students compare with those of other disciplines?

How can we develop more nurturing models of pedagogy appropriate to architecture disciplines?

How can the education of architects be best designed to support more diverse representation?

How can the profession develop to support architects’ wellbeing?

Would a more nurturing model of practice support more diverse representation in the profession?


1. Crinson, Ian. “Concepts of Health, Wellbeing and Illness, and the Aetiology of Illness Index.” (Bucks: Public Health Action Support Team, 2018). Accessed December 5, 2018,

2. World Health Organisation, Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion. (Geneva: WHO, 1986).

3. Huppert, Felicia A., and Timothy TC So. “Flourishing across Europe: Application of a new conceptual framework for defining well-being.” Social indicators research 110, no. 3 (2013): 837-861.

 4. Pilgrim, David. Key concepts in mental health. London, Sage, 2017.

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