Healthcare Architecture Master´s Thesis 2020

Agnes Leo

– a place to prevent and treat stress

Stress is a growing problem in our society and most severe amongst young people. Almost 30% of young swedes describe that they feel stressed. Many people experience stress that affects their daily life in a negative way. The project’s aim is to design a center for destress. I want to investigate if it is possible to reduce and treat high stress levels by creating a space dedicated to the senses and creativity.

Successful design has been shown to have distinct psychological and physiological influence on us. The function of our neurological systems play a significant role in what we perceive to be successful design. By taking advantage of all senses in design processes I think it is possible to create a healing environment.  A space that is experienced through all the senses and not just through the eyes.

research questions:

How can design elements, in the shape of a building,
be used in order to reduce and treat stress?

How can architecture, through a stimulation of the senses,
affect the mental and physical state of its users?

The senses.

The aim of this thesis is to investigate if and how we could use architecture to affect users mental and physical state in a more positive way. In my design I wanted to try to create an harmonious environment with the help of stimulation of our senses. In the design I use the nature for inspiration through use of typical natural colors and different textures of concrete combined with wood. I want the project to be an example of how a small number of elements and interventions can create a space rich in sensory experiences.

Senses are an information-seeking system that interacts with the surroundings, and in turn sends signals to the brain. The use of our senses is how we experience the world. Architectural design is mainly based upon stimulation of the eye while our feelings and memories are neglected. However, when a building is finished we notice how it affects our mental state and wellbeing. This idea should help guide us in future design priorities instead of just being a hindsight discovery.  


Qualities I considered important in my search for a project site were closeness to greenery and water, but also the city. I did not look for a place in the middle of the woods, but neither in the middle of the city, I wanted something in between. A place I had in mind that could be suitable for this specific project was Röda Sten.

I have been visiting Röda Sten a few times before, and knew that besides the beautiful connection to nature, it also has a strong cultural connection. By using art and nature as a therapy form, I thought the place matched my criteria.


The project is located next to an art hall. My idea is to connect and add to the already existing art hall, and thus make the building a part of the area. Also strengthen the project by designing its surroundings between the two.The center consists of various functions and it is split up in to two parts. The destress center with a small reception, staff area and different types of meditation/treatment rooms (such as counselling, dark room, rooms that are connected to nature, both outside and inside) and the other part that consists of an exhibition hall and a work shop. 

To get access to the center the user meets a doctor at a healthcare center and gets a referral. The center works as a compliment to todays counselling and medication. With inspiration from green-rehab the healing process is more about experiencing things through the senses.





In the building it is important to not choose what feels strenuous – for example there should preferably be no ordinary moldings and linings, push buttons and electronics, etc. Instead, the surfaces are presented in their origin.

The transformation begins in the small details closest to the hand and continues into our hearing and visual impressions. Ultimately, it is about giving calmness to the visitor. Calmness leads to presence and it is done in the sum of all these details.

The foundation of the building is in concrete. Concrete is the representation of the ground and the bearing. Light wood complement the concrete as a supporting element in the building and contrast with the cold stone and concrete. Solid furnishings are also made of wood. 

The large glass windows exists as a thin membrane between inside and outside. It gives reflections that enhance lighting and sight lines.

The art garden serves as the foyer of the building and advertises itself against the site and its visitors. In the garden you can be inspired by the art, spend time in the cultivation area or just sit down and rest. The house’s technical installations are assembled on the lower floor.


Visual impressions are often what one focuses on in architectural design. But everything is not light and colours. In order to direct the right mood, dark environments are also required. Different gradients of gray, natural wood and carefully placed ceiling lights are important. 


The experience of architecture is very much about acoustics. In the counselling rooms, the materials are soft and warm. There are carpets on the floors, soft fabric on the seatings and leather handles that muffle the sound. As you walk down one floor, the impressions change. There are only stone walls and very low melt. Here you can hear the water from the rain room that’s rippling.


The scents in the building should be characterised by stone, wood, water but also some herbs in the dark- and rest room.


The feeling of touch is of great importance in the building. There is an advantage if there is a tension in the surfaces of the materials. Such as raw concrete and stone, against a door of oiled oak and a handle of brass that has been patinated by touch. From details of leather and untreated wood to seat surfaces of soft fabric.

the journey.

The journey begins already outside the building. Here you enter a place with raw materials in contrast to the new park and the nature that already exists in the area. It is an open place, which is exposed to all weather. Therefore, the material choices are carefully selected. The wind blows and the tree tops sway back and forth. But the sound of the cars crossing the bridge reminds you of reality. You step in to the art garden, here there are walls made of corten with different heights. Behind some of these there are benches where you can sit in shelter and take in all the impressions of the place. You walk on and take the step into the destress center. It is quite dark, but the wood in selected places makes it feel both warmer and lighter. You glance away at the window and glimpse the river behind. After the therapy session you had, in a room without distractions, but still homely because of the fluffy rug and comfortable chair you sat in, you continue the journey through the building. You have chosen to explore it by yourself and the first stop will be the nature room. Here is a large tree planted, and with a view out over the water you settle down on the bench. It smells of some flowers standing in the corner and the sound of birdsong mixed with waves is played at low volume from the speakers. You relax.

After a while you continue down. The building becomes even darker. You hear rain dripping and steer the steps towards the rain room. Here it is oozing with steam and you stretching out your hand to touch the water. You exit again, and open the door to the dark room. Here it smells mildly of herbs and it steams from a warm water bath. You lie down on your back on the raw concrete bench and close your eyes. You get time to just be, to take in the scent, feel the hard surface against your body, look up at the lights that resemble a starry sky. You relax.

When you exit the building it has become dark. But the place is well lighted and you start walking towards the car to go home. You think about the fact that it was a long time ago since you did something just for yourself. Or just did nothing. And you think it is amazing that you actually got that on prescription.