Designing for Emotional Wellbeing: The Power of Both/And
This post is part two of a two part series in which we explore how design can shape our culture and result in emotionally and mentally supportive environments.
One goal of good design is to incorporate a sense of ease and emotional well-being into a space. We move beyond the purpose of simple function to create a more personal interaction and meaningful experience for the user.
As we look to design spaces that help churches address needs for things like respite and personal connection, the interplay between the indoors and the outdoors and art and architecture can offer creative and unique solutions.Incorporating Interplay
Indoor and Outdoor
The below project we designed and built includes a beautiful space with elements that delight and surprise. It has a sense of permanence but also changes with the seasons as it’s located adjacent to outdoor space. The interplay of indoor and outdoor spaces creates joy, healing and rest. When people are longing for emotional connection, we can lean into creative, physical interaction in our churches that help people feel the presence of our Creator.
Chapel Pointe, Hudsonville, Michigan
The above church came to us with the common need of additional space and the project could easily have been designed without these outdoor elements and interplay. With it, however, the design shifts from merely solving a square footage problem to capturing a culture of seeing and taking in the created world around us—an important part of rest, reflection, and time with God.
Below is another example of this interplay between indoors and outdoors. We create simple spaces that contrast light and shadow and play with sheltered and open-air spaces. This hints at the mystery of our world and piques curiosity, helping our imaginations to be captured by something outside of ourselves, like the majesty of God.
Chapel Pointe, Hudsonville, Michigan
The images of another Aspen project, below, illustrate another approach to the same concept. Many churches may not back up to a wooded lot or have an ample outdoor space to tap into, but even if you don't have a beautiful site to play with, connections between indoor and outdoor are still attainable and valuable in the subtle way they can impact our emotional health.
Waypoint Church, St. Charles, Missouri
Art and Architecture
Architecture benefits from interplay with art. In the concept below, the natural environment is fully integrated into the built space. The open walls and surrounding shrubs exist together and create that reciprocity between structure and the natural world.
Nature is one way to create interplay, but it's not the only way. Public art provides an opportunity to engage with community as we navigate the full emotional depth that God created in us—the only way to combat the individualism and isolation that make us lonely and depressed. The interplay between art and architecture can help us be more honest about how we're doing and invite the church to minister to us with the truth of God's promises.
Being surprised and delighted by art—its beauty, contrast, and details can open up emotions in new ways. Sometimes it means increasing joy, but it also means tapping into deeply buried grief. When we experience this through something gentle and non-aggressive, like a well-designed space, artistic expression can help people process hurts.
Are you looking for ways to incorporate interplay into your church space? Our design experts are passionate about ministry-focused design and are ready to dream up something for your space. Get in touch with us, or view our recent work.
About Derek DeGroot
Derek DeGroot is Vice President of Design and Integrated Services for Aspen Group. After graduating from University of Illinois-Chicago’s architecture program, Derek began his career in residential design. At the same time, his church was embarking on a building project. Derek quickly realized that churches needed to find a better way to build. Soon after, he discovered and joined Aspen Group in 2007.