Form Follows Feeling: Trauma-Informed Design and the Future of Interior Spaces

Many architects and designers have highlighted the importance of taking into account all five senses during the design process, in order to create a successful user experience. Fortunately, many strategies have been implemented to facilitate the experience of those who are physically impaired, however, little is being done to aid those who feel helpless and restricted due to mental illnesses and traumatic experiences.

Healing from these experiences is a journey that requires a lot of effort from both the individual and everything and everyone around him/her. Oftentimes, victims of trauma are advised to spend more time in the outdoors, embracing the restorative qualities of nature. But what about interiors? Since people are now spending almost 90% of their time indoors, it is only natural that these spaces contribute to the healing process as well. And while these spaces can look beautiful with an abundance of natural light and neutral color palettes, are they truly beneficial to their mental health?

Firstly, what is Trauma-Informed Design?

Form Follows Feeling: Trauma-Informed Design and the Future of Interior Spaces  - Image 3 of 3
Trauma-informed Design Framework ‘Designing for Healing, Dignity and Joy (2020). Image Courtesy of Shopworks Architecture Group, 14 Engineering, & University of Denver Center for Housing and Homelessness Research

TiD is a new concept that has not yet achieved a unified definition. We define it as a design process for the built environment based on trauma informed care principles. All decisions about the physical environment must be filtered through the overlapping lenses of psychology, neuroscience, physiology, and cultural factors. The intent is to create uniquely-designed spaces where all users feel a sense of safety (both real and perceived), respect, connection and community, control, dignity, and joy. Each TiD environment should aim to specifically meet the unique needs of the intended users, recognizing that some helpful and healing design elements may look different for different populations - Harte & Roche 

To showcase the work of psychologists, educators, architects, and other professionals who have put the human wellbeing at the forefront, J. Davis Harte and Janet Roche have created an online platform titled Trauma-Informed Design, where the latest research and case studies can be collected, shared, and amplified, to create better interior spaces.

In an exclusive interview with ArchDaily, Davis and Roche explain why they decided to create the TiD platform, how trauma can impact the human brain and how we can create wellness-centered spaces, and the need of integrating trauma-informed design principles in architecture and design curricula. 

J. Davis Harte, PhD, is a trauma-informed designer and advocate centered on design, environment, and wellness. She specializes in maternity, child, youth, family + learning environments. She is an Early Childhood Educator, has a Masters degree in Design & Human Environments with a focus on interiors and an emphasis on preschool children behavior, and is the Director and Faculty of the Design for Human Health program.

Janet Roche, MDS, is a trauma-informed designer and college instructor. She has a B.S. in Social Work from Boston University, and a Masters in Design for Human Health. She has her own design company, Janet Roche Designs, LLC, and is an instructor at the Boston Architectural College teaching Environmental Health, Human Conditions + Design, and Biophilia. She is also the creator of "Inclusive Designers", a podcast for designers to share creative ideas for different human conditions.

This article is part of the ArchDaily Topic: Interior Wellbeing. Every month we explore a topic in-depth through articles, interviews, news, and projects. Learn more about our monthly topics. As always, at ArchDaily we welcome the contributions of our readers; if you want to submit an article or project, contact us.

About this author
Cite: Dima Stouhi. "Form Follows Feeling: Trauma-Informed Design and the Future of Interior Spaces " 10 Mar 2021. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

Sibipirunas House / Studio Otto Felix. Image © Denilson Machado - MCA Estúdio


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