The Hale: Community Mental Well-being Centre
Stigma is a socially constructed concept, it stems from the majority view of normality, the categorisation of it and the devaluing of what is deemed abnormal. This project seeks to understand the role architecture has played in defining stigma and can the architecture itself challenge it. The resultant project is a community mental well-being centre, focused on the prevention of mental ill-health; located in Tottenham Hale, London, an area deprived of access to healthcare and community dissatisfaction with regeneration schemes.
Through multiple scales from the master-planning of the proposed High Street to the design of interior retreat places, the design addresses the role of a building’s access, facade, threshold spaces and interior organisation as veritable means to challenging stigma.
The scheme proposes a hybrid typology of a community centre and mental health centre that embeds the ethos of mental health prevention within the community fabric. In ethos the centre is open to everyone within the community to engage directly with the notion of mental health, that it is not something to be ashamed of and thus challenging stigma.
Who influences you graphically?
I am constantly being influenced by graphics in the world around me whether it is an illustration, product packaging or an experience etc. In my work process, I try to digest all that information and qualitatively come up with, what I feel best conveys the message of each individual project. Oftentimes it is an experimental process of trying to achieve a certain outcome but finding a different path within it.
For this project specifically, I was particularly inspired by a group called MadLove. They are a group of artists and architects who, through art and design, are trying to find a positive space to experience mental distress and enlightenment; ‘a safe place to go mad’! Having worked with them, I could say an underlying ethos of this project was really cultivated from their ambition. In terms of graphics, more specifically, some of the images have been influenced by the cityscape illustrations of Natsko Seki and to some extent Gordon Cullen’s coloured townscapes.
How important is the ‘sketch’ within the realm of architecture? What role does it play for you in the development and exploration of ideas?
To me sketching is a means of recording, understanding and evaluating the design, it is an intuitive process. From someone who avoided sketching, I have become more aware of its importance the more I’ve developed my skills. For architects, It is the most direct way of conveying ideas and can be a very compelling method of representation. It allows more freedom to distort and arrange ideas and more room for the viewer to ‘fill in the blanks’.
What is the effect and purpose of the ‘zooms’?
The original drawings were 3m long, 1:200 scale street elevations. These were used to understand the context of the proposed master plan and how they would integrate with my proposed centre. In digital form the detail would be near impossible to replicate thus I decided to emphasise certain sections of the drawing through the ‘zooms’. They have been done in this way to maintain the continuity in the drawing. They highlight an everyday context, the intention is that the centre would seamlessly integrate into the master plan but create distinct moments of interest and community interaction.
What is the effect and purpose of the white frame?
I use framing as a technique to direct focus but to not overpower certain drawings I chose to leave it white. The white frame provides both a focus to the image whilst allowing the viewer space to imagine what might be beyond it. For this project particularly the white gives the viewer space to rest and a sense of ease, rather than an image that overwhelms.
Were there any specific parameters when constructing the views? What were the main objectives of these?
The views try to depict the many different settings within the proposal and how each creates a setting conducive to being ‘a safe place to go mad’. They incorporate ideas of domesticity and the biophilic principles of prospect and refuge, complexity and order. But most importantly the views intend to capture the permeability of spaces, how in their different locations and levels of publicness, still provide a sense of community whilst maintaining a degree of privacy.
What purpose did the physical model serve?
The schematic model was an important part of conveying the project as a whole and how these individual elements are set within its community identity. It also tries to convey within it how the different uses of material come together to form a cohesive and inviting place through facades and threshold spaces. I am a keen model maker when developing and representing projects and used a number of these to test scale and massing, as well as larger scale bay models to understand facades and threshold spaces.
Chen Man is a recent graduate of the University of Nottingham MArch Architecture Degree in 2017. His thesis identified the role architecture has to play in challenging stigma within mental health: proposing a more integrated urban network of community focused mental health centres. A culturally inquisitive person, he has studied in and visited a number of countries but is based in London, where he worked for nimtim Architects. He is currently working for Alison Brooks Architects whilst redesigning his family home.