'Well-being' (in the built environment) - a definition

 “Architecture is the art which so disposes and adorns the edifices raised by man for whatsoever uses, that the sight of them contributes to his mental health, power and pleasure.”

These words chosen by the famous British writer, painter, poet and art critic John Ruskin (1819-1900) in “The Seven Lamps of Architecture” express well the connection between architectural spaces and what today would probably be described with the generic concept of 'well-being'.


We unconditionally pronounce the term 'well-being' in the most diverse contexts, thus also in the field of architecture. However, some words risk losing their original meaning over time because they are used out of habit and without reflecting on their true meaning. This is exactly what has happened to the concept of well-being. Another term that is suffering a similar fate is 'sustainability', which is on everyone's lips and is often used inappropriately or incompletely. Just think of the now widespread phenomenon of 'greenwashing'.

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Therefore, it will be useful to ask ourselves about the true meaning of the word well-being (not to be confused with the term “wellness”), since it is of great interest to Verde Profilo.


Well-being is a state that involves all aspects of human beings and characterises the quality of existence of each individual within his or her community or society. It is the balance between a person's biological, psychological and social planes. The meaning is dynamic and has undergone numerous modifications over the years that have led to a broader and more comprehensive view that focuses not only on the idea of the absence of disease and infirmity, but also on an overall state of good physical, psychological and mental health.

The WHO (World Health Organisation) explicitly links the notion of health to that of well-being and conceptualises it as a human right that requires physical and social resources, but the correct meaning of well-being remains vague in this definition; health and well-being are often used as synonyms.

Well-being does not refer to a neutral state, but frames health as a positive aspiration. It is a state in which there is a feeling of physical, mental and social happiness.


In the field of architecture, well-being concerns the consideration and design of built environments that promote the physical, mental and emotional health of their occupants. It involves the creation of spaces that support and enhance the health and happiness of people interacting with architecture and physical spaces.

Underlying design is an awareness of the powerful impact that the built environment, including buildings, neighbourhoods, parks and urban planning, can have on general wellbeing.

Numerous factors contribute to promoting our wellbeing in the built environment, such as the right amount of natural light to keep in balance our circadian rhythm (which regulates the sleep-wake cycle), quality views of nearby natural environments, the presence of preferably autochthonous vegetation, good indoor air quality, natural materials, the use of colours found in Nature, etc.

The discipline of BIOPHILIC DESIGN creates solutions that are in line with the true needs of the physical body, mind and emotions of people in a given space, seeking to support the level of well-being of each individual by (re)connecting them with the natural world.


DESIGNING FOR WELL-BEING in the built environment remains a valuable challenge. We at VERDE PROFILO face it every day with enthusiasm and awareness.

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Bettina Bolten, Biophilic design consultant

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