Talks: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives on Mental Health and the Built Environment

Convened by Dr Christina Malathouni (

In recent months, as the reality of a pandemic became apparent across the globe, the significance of our physical and mental health has been brought to the foreground of our collective thoughts. Widespread lockdown measures worked their way into daily life and many of us remained indoors and largely confined to the walls of our homes. Restrictions to the use of shared open and enclosed spaces further highlighted the key role of the built environment for personal and community wellbeing.

Within this context, and as part of the School of Architecture’s public talks series, five sessions of guest talks culminating in a round table discussion will focus on the complex and multi-faceted connections between mental health and the built environment. Contributions will span across architectural and urban scales, and will offer academic and professional perspectives. Examples will touch upon specialist facilities created specifically for mental health treatment and recovery, conversions of existing buildings, co-location of mental health support services with other institutions, urban regeneration and community challenges, as well as connections to broader social issues.

In weeks 1 and 2, talks delivered by academic researchers will introduce historical explorations in international settings. The second half of the series will then come closer to home and to the present time as it will engage with contemporary initiatives by the Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust. In weeks 3 and 4, practicing built environment professionals will talk about their work, including inpatient units and “Life Rooms” facilities for Mersey Care. Finally, in week 5, a round table will bring together mental healthcare and specialist built environment professionals, design champions, and academics working on the intersection of mental health and community environments. It will conclude the series by generating an inquisitive discussion and reflections on acquired wisdom and future opportunities.

Thursday 19 November 2020

Madness and Architecture: An Archaeology of Lunatic Asylums
Dr Burçak Özlüdil, Associate Dean, Albert Dorman Honors College, New Jersey Institute of Technology (USA)

See session page for details and to access the event recording.

Thursday 26 November 2020

Social Psychiatry and Preventing Mental Illness in the USA, 1939-1980
Professor Matthew Smith, University of Strathclyde

Support presentation: Public Mental Health Facilities in Post-War Britain, 1948-1973
Dr Christina Malathouni, School of Architecture, University of Liverpool

See session page for details and to access the event recording.

Thursday 3 December 2020 

Nurture and Nature – Approaches to Mental Health Design
Karen Flatt, Architect & Studio Director, IBI Group

Support presentation: Introduction to contemporary mental health facilities by the Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust
Haziq Khairi, School of Architecture, University of Liverpool

Book your place through Eventbrite

Thursday 10 December 2020

Architecture and heritage for mental health in the community
Stacey Charlesworth, Design Director, ADT Workplace
Chris Pickup, Studio Associate Director, IBI Group

Register here via Zoom

Thursday 17 December 2020

Round table: Mental health for all: the role of architecture, design and place

Register here via Zoom

Beatrice Fraenkel Hon FRIBA FRSA, Chair, Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust
Michael Crilly, Director of Social Inclusion & Participation, Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust
John Cole CBE RIBA, Honorary Professor, School of Natural and Built Environment, Queen’s University Belfast
Rhiannon Corcoran, Professor of Psychology and Public Mental Health, University of Liverpool
Chair: Dr Christina Malathouni, School of Architecture, University of Liverpool

The series is convened by Dr Christina Malathouni and relates to her current research, which focuses on mental health facilities in the first administrative period of the National Health Service. The principal output of this research will be a monograph on Public Mental Health Facilities in Post-War Britain, 1948-1973 (Routledge). Shorter publications to date include: “Beyond the asylum and before the ‘care in the community’ model: exploring an overlooked early NHS mental health facility,” History of Psychiatry (2020) 31:4, 455-469; “Design in Mind,” C20: The Magazine of the Twentieth Century Society (2020/2), 46-47; and “Mental health provision in Merseyside: Residential and community facilities in the pre- and post-Covid worlds” (with Haziq Khairi), The Design in Mental Health Network Magazine (January 2021 – forthcoming).

All sessions will include discussion and Q&As.

The series is free and open to all, but registration is required

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