An alternative news source that focuses on telling compelling stories about the places and structures that we live and spend time in recently reported on the growing amount of evidence that shows just how big an impact the design of spaces has on our mental wellbeing.

In a recent article, Curbed, which provides “analysis, coverage, and insight” on the online housing industry and applies “an editorial lens to the onslaught of information,” looked at how leading architects, scientists and designers are taking new approaches in order to create positive experiences for users of a variety of facility types.

“A subset of neuroscientists and psychologists are now working with architects and designers to understand how and why spaces, from city sidewalks to buildings to individual rooms, have such strong cognitive and psychological impacts,” the article states. “How these spaces are designed can affect the way people think, feel, learn, and comprehend the world around them. And because we spend so much time in these spaces, how they are designed can have significant impacts on our lives.”

Additionally, the article points to how hospital design can speed up healing, how homes can be better suited to the “hypersensitivities” of children on the autism spectrum, how office spaces can boost productivity, and also indicates that windows and natural light can reduce stress and improve sleep. Additionally, it features and describes prison facilities that focus on the normalization of correctional spaces in attempts to create better environments for inmates and staff.

We at Norix were early adopters and are huge proponents of the humanizing of facilities that have historically been institutional in nature and the efforts to create positive outcomes for users of all kinds. We have reported frequently on this trend and offer correctional furniture that comes in aesthetically pleasing designs while remaining highly durable and sanitary for facilities such as correctional facilities.

This new approach to humanizing corrections, in which facilities are becoming more normalized, is increasingly being implemented in the United States and already is established in progressive countries in Europe.

Humanizing corrections makes use of color, art and landscaping to create a more normalized environment to benefit both inmates and staff. It also makes use of furniture that is more aesthetically pleasing, constructed of materials other than steel and is more residential in appearance. This humanistic approach to design is believed to:

  • Boost inmate and staff morale
  • Encourage social engagement
  • Promote dignity
  • Lower tension
  • Improve staff safety
  • Provide visual interest
  • Offer positive distractions
  • Calm the equilibrium
  • Reduce recidivism

One such facility that has incorporated humanizing corrections is the San Diego County Women’s Detention Facility (SDCWDF). The design, aesthetics and experience of SDCWDF falls in line with this emerging trend in corrections where facilities depart from the sterile and institutional feeling that has historically been found in these environments.

Norix Furniture provided much of the furnishings in this new facility.

“Our design team researched this premise and studied facilities in Europe that have found success through the approach of humanizing correctional facilities,” said Pam Maynard, Director of Interior Architecture for HMC Architects, a firm that was part of the team designing and building the facility. “This research confirms that the environments in which people live, learn, heal and are governed in, can affect us both psychologically and physiologically in both negative and positive ways depending on various environmental qualities.”

The team involved in the design and construction of the facility was tasked with creating an environment that was more humanized and conducive to rehabilitation. This included the use of multiple soothing colors, furniture with less institutional design, incorporation of increased natural daylight and large-scale photographs of natural outdoor settings throughout the facility. This also included the design of outdoor environments with attractive landscaping and furniture that will help inmates feel connected to the outside world.

“The environmental qualities of the spaces at SDCWDF lend themselves to a more humanistic approach to detention,” Maynard said. “But it’s all about the people. We can talk about a chair or a light fixture or a wall color. But it all comes down to the people and the affect that this cohesive environment can have on the future of these women’s lives. And if it can contribute to a positive effect, that’s what I am most excited about.”

For humanizing corrections white papers, case studies, videos, photos and more, click here.