Main _ Rabbit hole _ A safe place to be mad and make art therapy

Rabbit hole

A safe place to be mad and make art therapy


AUTHOR: Wendai Zhu
PLACE: "Anyplace"
YEAR: 2022
STATUS: Unbuilt
INSTAGRAM: @wendai1314


In addition to being a vessel to contain humans and objects, can architecture also be a space dominated by emotion and relying on artistic conception, to achieve a healing function? The design goal of this case attempts to challenge traditional curative spaces. Architecture could be a link between media and emotion and integrate it into space. Unlike the traditional concept of Asylum, this design combines the form of immersive performance to create multiple stages with narrative functions. It is also a space with therapeutic properties.

There is no clear demarcation line between the audience and the actor, and the audience can also be the actor. The interaction between people and objects is an interactive process, through the sequence and finally a resonant movement. This dramatic process is extremely impactful and is where events take place. Through the occurrence of events and performances, the exchange of information is generated, the memories of the audience are awakened, and resonance is created.

The mentally ill recognize the events, to achieve the purpose of recalling the past, and process the past as a memory, to achieve the purpose of healing.


Throughout the history of the development of mental hospitals in the East and the West, the insane patients in the notorious Bethlem Royal Hospital were visited by the nobles, revealing the extravagance and corruption of the social hierarchy at that time, as well as the ignorance of human beings about psychiatry at that time.

In 1892, the Guangzhou Huiai Psychiatric Hospital was established. In addition to caring for the patients and providing a good and comfortable inpatient treatment environment, the madhouse is still a terrible existence, although society’s attitude towards the mentally ill has gradually shifted towards tolerance. However, these are still far from enough. So why do not provide a safe place for the mentally ill, and create an emotional link with the building?

People with mental illness are always easy to be discriminated. Stigma and shame often prevent people living with mental illness from seeking treatment. Thus, their condition will deteriorate. And the worst situation could be suicide commitment in the end. The final goal of medical treatment could be the cure, but what about simply providing a safe place for people with mental illness? In another word, a safe place to be mad! Some of the mental patients are extremely talented in artistic creation fields and encouragement is a gesture to value their talent.

Art therapy, a mixed field deeply influenced by the integration of art and psychology, implies the creative process, arts and creation added in therapy. It helps to develop self-awareness, recognize deferent feelings, address uncertain emotional conflicts, improve social skills, and raise self-notion.

An art therapy session will possibly result in a tangible outcome (such as a painting, drawing, or sculpture). Could be visual, tactile, or auditory because expressive arts therapy is not just for visual artists. Depending on the technique, the result may be tangible or intangible.

In this project, the immersive experience has been mainly integrated into the design. The Devising Theatre, also known as collective improvisation theatre, is a theatre where the script comes from the real stories of the participants, and under the guidance of a mentor. The participants become “theatre makers” from “story-sharers”.

However, the theatre itself is not the therapy. It’s about providing a point of view and then creating. So, theatre is not a place for the audience to wallow in themselves, but to understand themselves and create a new self. In another word, opening the body’s perception and using ‘behavior’ as a gateway to understand space.

The pure geometric forms are taken from the Laban movement. In order to allow emotional expression and alter emotional states, the dance movement has traditionally relied on movement. Dance motions can elicit movement reactions that help people better manage the environment and have a good impact on their mood. The purpose of dance therapy recommendations is to promote the emotional transition by facilitating movement in creative and non-regular ways.

The site of this building is called β€œanyplace”, an immaterial site. According to research and analysis, whether it is from the pressure of our daily life, work, or the traumatic psychological injury caused by the epidemic. The asylums are sometimes chosen to build on the outskirts of the cities due to a less commotion environment, fresh and clean air, and being close to nature which is therapeutic. Therefore, a building with integrated functions that can be easily adjusted according to the specific site is particularly important. The site selection away from the city takes care of the first process. Therefore, the design is considered in an impacted form. For example, a box. This box could be placed anywhere or at any place.

People with problems like anxiety, depression, drug and alcohol abuse, stress, attention deficit, hyperactivity disorder, aging and geriatric issues, cancer, heart disease, anorexia bulimia, other eating disorders, family or relationship problems, etc. constantly find success in art therapy. Art therapy is thought to be especially beneficial for those who feel disconnected from their emotions or feelings because it enables people to express feelings on any topic through creative work rather than speech. Individuals who have trouble discussing or recalling painful experiences may also discover art therapy particularly beneficial.

The graphic style of the collage has been carefully chosen. The scenarios are based on the narrative method.

Organizing events in a building is not only about function and aesthetic sense, but also about life rhythm, which means architecture and events. In this process, the narrative skills of movies, novels, and pictures can be applied to the design.

Morris Lapidus said: β€œIf you create the stage setting and it is grand, everyone who enters will play their part.”

Combine the site condition and function, translate it into a space shape with the continuous track, tell a story, and let the reader participate in it, which will awake resonance.


Wendai Zhu is a young architect based in Shanghai and Zhuhai, China. She graduated from the University of Edinburgh in 2017 and was under the supervision of Dr. Liam Ross. After graduation, she worked on many architecture projects, such as residential buildings, neighbourhood center, theatre, civic centre, renovation projects, and masterplans. In parallel, she is interested in social problems, gender equality, stray animals, and sustainable design.


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