Start making sense: Applying a salutogenic model to architectural design for psychiatric care

Golembiewski, Jan A. (2010) Start making sense: Applying a salutogenic model to architectural design for psychiatric care. Facilities, 28(3/4), pp. 100-117.

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This paper aims to look into the significance of architectural design in psychiatric care facilities. There is a strong correlation between perceptual dysfunction and psychiatric illness, and also between the patient and his environment. As such, even minor design choices can be of great consequence in a psychiatric facility. It is of critical importance, therefore, that a psychiatric milieu is sympathetic and does not exacerbate the psychosis.


This paper analyses the architectural elements that may influence mental health, using an architectural extrapolation of Antonovsky’s salutogenic theory, which states that better health results from a state of mind which has a fortified sense of coherence. According to the theory, a sense of coherence is fostered by a patient’s ability to comprehend the environment (comprehensibility), to be effective in his actions (manageability) and to find meaning (meaningfullness).


Salutogenic theory can be extrapolated in an architectural context to inform design choices when designing for a stress-sensitive client base.

Research limitations/implications

In the paper an architectural extrapolation of salutogenic theory is presented as a practical method for making design decisions (in praxis) when evidence is not available. As demonstrated, the results appear to reflect what evidence is available, but real evidence is always desirable over rationalist speculation. The method suggested here cannot prove the efficacy or appropriateness of design decisions and is not intended to do so.

Practical implications

The design of mental health facilities has long been dominated by unsubstantiated policy and normative opinions that do not always serve the client population. This method establishes a practical theoretical model for generating architectural design guidelines for mental health facilities.


The paper will prove to be helpful in several ways. First, salutogenic theory is a useful framework for improving health outcomes, but in the past the theory has never been applied in a methodological way. Second, there have been few insights into how the architecture itself can improve the functionality of a mental health facility other than improve the secondary functions of hospital services.

Impact and interest:

8 citations in Scopus
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ID Code: 85104
Item Type: Journal Article
Refereed: Yes
Additional URLs:
Keywords: Architecture, Mental Health, Methodologies, Healthcare, Design
DOI: 10.1108/02632771011023096
ISSN: 0263-2772
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Creative Industries Faculty
Deposited On: 04 Jan 2016 00:05
Last Modified: 02 Feb 2016 01:27

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