healthcare, dementia architects, body schema, peripersonal space

Spaces affect your sense of self and susceptibility to anxiety

Peripersonal Space, The Body Schema and it's relevance to care and dementia design.

The mind sees the body, clothes, tools and the space around it as an extension of itself – it’s body schema - and will do this to greater or lesser degrees depending on the sense of ownership of that space or item. For example in your bedroom, your peripersonal space may extend to fill the room – the room becomes, to your mind, sensitive like your body, an extension of yourself. On the London Tube Train however your peripersonal space may extend simply a few centimetres from your body, with no sense that the shared space is part of you.

Un-prepared for intrusion into an individual’s peri-personal space can result in defensiveness, increased anxiety and stress.

In a residential care environment this is important in respect to design, as abrupt changes in the mind’s relationship with it’s surroundings can cause anxiety, preventing natural, easy engagement.

This is why, we have been developing a design approach for care and dementia where space hierarchy is clear, the level of space ownership is clear, and every place within a given space is naturally meaningful through it’s arrangement. Transition points between private and increasingly public spaces are cushioned using intermediary zones that give opportunity for pause and reflection, before making a choice on one’s journey, no-one is left feeling like they have been forced by a doorway into an un-known world, where there is doubt and fear as to the level of ownership or type of use for that newly entered space.

A clear example of this in our dementia design strategy is the use of personalised space outside each individual room or residence, allowing individuals to move through graduated ownership of space, take their time, sit down and watch the world, in space still inhabited by their belongings, as they get ready to make choices from there as to where to go, or what to do that day. They can make decisions through the use of key views and semi open plan areas that their room opens onto.

Subtle use of Architecture can support confidence, help develop selfhood and sustain long term wellbeing, without costing more to construct than standard designs.


We have been developing an economic and rapid construction method for our building typology using a new form of lightweight steel frame. Further to the economies of this construction method it delivers you a building which is easy to maintain, extend or alter into the future, you are able to continually maintain a building which matches the needs and requirements of care for your local community onward and long into the future.


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body schema, self perception and feeling rather than seeing

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