My primary purpose in pursuing a doctorate degree in Architectural Design is to become a professor of architecture. My goal professionally is to be an architectural practitioner involved in the praxis of architectural production that combines the pragmatism of a professional practice with the academic discourse. Doctorate studies will give me the opportunity to concentrate and allocate more time and energy on my research intention in order to achieve a comprehensive knowledge and experience for future positions both as a professor and professional architect. In my seven years of studying architecture at the SBU and Miami University, I have seen the importance of education for the production of architecture and its impact to national development. Thus by becoming a professor/educator, I intend to contribute to the development of future architects and architecture in my home country, IRAN.
RESEARCH INTERESTS and DIRECTIONS
My interest in the connection of health and architecture has been started when I supervised a project in ATIEH Hospital located in Tehran, Iran during October and November 2005. The hospital had been changed several times and the new board of directors wanted to have a new set of building document in order to improve the hospital environmental qualities. Working twelve hours a day during two month, investigating every single space in the building, and observing patients, nurses, and doctors were a great turning point in my professional life toward research and investigation of the connection between built environment and health, healing and general wellbeing. When I started studying master of architecture at Miami University on Sep 2008, my main goal was a comprehensive thesis inquiry focused on the connection of health and architecture.
My Master thesis research was concentrated more on spirituality as the most intangible aspect of living environment; hence, my main question was how spirituality can influence human beings' modern stressful lifestyle and how design strategies can foster an urban healing environment in a spiritual way. Although many contemporary wellness approaches are focused on physical and medical assets, there is a deep connection between spirituality and health, healing and general wellbeing. Currently, stress, anxiety and physical and mental pressure are the well-documented causes for many severe diseases such as cancer. In developed countries, such as the USA, the complexity of urban lifestyles does not always allow a separation or relief from the stressful environments. Living with high stress makes it difficult to find concentrated time to experience the distinct aspects of life beyond everyday issues. Therefore, my thesis paper titled "Spirituality, Health and Architecture: with respect to Stress" has addressed how environmental qualities can motivate the human spirit in order to deal with and counteract high-pressured environments. In addition, this paper has shown how returning to and focusing on inherent aspects of our being through architecture can affect our real wellness, health, healing, and general wellbeing. Eventually, the thesis design project was embodied in the Urban Healing Oasis in the heart of an urban environment (Cincinnati, OH) where stress is one of the most relevant issues in all people's everyday lives, ignoring their gender, age and culture. The program of my spiritual wellness center was different from a hospital or healthcare center because my audiences were broader than the patients with physical or mental infirmity. The multifunctional program included a healing thermae, the commercial and educational facilities, a clinic (concentrated on physical therapy) and a Hotel (with extended stay facilities).
PROPOSED DISSERTATION TOPIC
My interest in the intersections of health and architecture reflects my intention of studying and analyzing the development of architecture both in theory and design from the most intangible aspects of space such as spirituality and sacredness to the most tangible points of view, for instance, in green innovation and technology. I am tentatively entitling my future thesis project: "Sustainability, Health, and Architecture: regarding both physical and metaphysical environmental qualities." My main question is how architecture, as a form of living, can enhance human health, healing and wellbeing both physically and mentally and how sustainable design strategies can support the new directions toward a healthy lifestyle. Despite the fact that the current preference with sustainable profession often guides to more habitable, occupant friendly building, it is still focused on technology instead of the occupant. Perhaps my significant question is "How sustainability can be experienced from a novel viewpoint, reach beyond the physical aspects of built environment and affect the essence of a space." In this thesis I will argue for an architecture focused on the living through architecture which is concentrated on the human beings and not on the technology.
World Health Organization (1946) defined Health as a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. Therefore, health is a way of living and has a meaning beyond not being sick; this statement changes the dominant concentration from illness to wellness. Architecture and built environments, as the main part of people everyday lives, have a great impact on wellbeing of the human occupant. Most of the recent built environments are entangled with severe medical conditions such as sick building syndrome (SBS), building-related illness (BRI), environmental illness (EI), and cancer mostly because of decreasing costs and increasing energy efficiency. All these contemporary risky and unsafe living environments can directly influence human health and healing, both physically and psychologically, which can cause a greater impact on living expenses. In this thesis, I will discuss the architects' responsibility in creating environments which accept, respect and protect the human occupant; and I will argue their accountability in designing spaces which influence human senses of happiness coming from interrelated physical and mental health, healing and wellbeing.
My PHD studies titled "Sustainability, Health, and Architecture" will be focused more on two significant phases: 1. Research and investigation and 2. Research translated through Design. In the first phase, I will implement three research methods such as post occupancy evaluation, review of existing case studies and design guidelines, and preparing amended design recommendations that can provide a powerful foundation in order to enter the next phase which is translating research into design. In the post occupancy studies, I will conduct an in-depth evaluation of the technical, functional, and behavioral architectural elements in a diverse range of everyday living environments, for example, an office/school building, and a residential complex, a wellness center, a healing garden, and maybe a hospital via observation, mapping information, questionnaire, and interview. At the end, I will prepare a POE report that can collect and show all beneficial information and data coming from this study.
The case studies has become a primordial methodology in architectural research and I want to review a range of diverse healing architectural precedents including the historical examples like Persian bath and Roman Thermae and also the contemporary ones like Thermae Vales by peter Zumthor, health and spa facilities by Behnisch and partner, henriettenstiftunghannover by architektengruppe Schweitzer and partner, and Doctor-Surgery in West London by Guy Greenfield. The design suggestions coming from each study will be analyzed in a standardized format that will be then used in further study process. At the end of the first phase, an improved set of design guidelines will be prepared by using the design recommendations documented in the POE report and also in the case studies review; eventually, I will be ready to commence the second phase of study which is translation research into the design process. I predict that this phase will happen during the first half of my PHD studies at your university.
The second half of my doctorate studies will be allocated to design phase involving several methods such as program, concept and design development which will result in a design solution. Human being is the center of attention in my PHD research and investigation; it is crucial to comprehend occupant characteristics, desire and necessities along with all opportunities and constraints of both the client and site; therefore, the program needs to be developed and detailed. Next stage will be developing a powerful design concept that requires the principle investigator to pay attention to all of the knowledge and experiences from the conducted comprehensive inquiry to this point. A holistic understanding of the occupant needs, site analysis, contextual studies, sustainability and green technology, human health and healing, and the design profession will assist the principle investigator to develop a pure, concise and meaningful design concept. Afterwards, I will start to develop a series of design solutions considering the design concept, program requirements, amended design recommendations, and the site analysis. Eventually, the design solution is intended to create the healthy built environments incorporating a new direction of sustainability and green innovation.
Overall, my approach will be based on personal and first hand experiences woven with theoretical viewpoints partially guided by Phenomenology. I will concentrate more on the theoretical literatures written by Edmund Husserl, Martin Heidegger, and Maurice Merleau Ponty; I will also focus more on the architectural writings and precedents done by Christian Norberg Schulz, Juhani Pallasmaa, Steven Holl and Peter Zumthor. I made a list of some books that I will certainly refer and apply in my PHD research and studies:
1. The Idea of Phenomenology by Edmund Husserl
2. Ideas Pertaining to a Pure Phenomenology and to a Phenomenological Philosophy by Edmund Husserl
First Book: General Introduction to a Pure Phenomenology
Second Book: Studies in the Phenomenology of Constitution
Third Book: Phenomenology and the Foundations of the Sciences
3. Being and Time by Martin Heidegger
4. Poetry, Language and Thought by Martin Heidegger
5. Phenomenology of Perception by Maurice MerleauPonty
6. The visible and the invisible by Maurice MerleauPonty
7. The Phenomenological Mind by Shaun Gallagher and Dan Zahavi
8. Thinking Architecture by Peter Zumthor
9. Genius Loci: Towards a Phenomenology of Architecture by Christian Norberg Schulz
10. The eyes of the skin: Architecture and the senses by JuhaniPallasmaa
Moreover, they are some other books and resources that are interesting to think over:
1. Daylighting, Architecture and Health-Building Design Strategies, by Mohamed Boubekri
2. ETFE Technology and Design by Annette Lecuyer
3. Green Building Handbook, Volume 1 and 2, By Tom Woolley, Sam Kimmins, Paul Harrison, and Rob Harrison
4. Innovations in Hospice Architecture by Stephen Verderber and Ben J. Refuerzo
5. Materials for Sustainable Sites by Meg Calkins
6. New Health Facilities-Architectural Design by Arian Mostaedi
7. New Hospital Buildings in Germany by Philipp Meuser and ChristophSchirmer
8. Places of the Soul by Christopher Day
9. Spirit and Place by Christopher Day
10. Smart Materials And New Technologies by D. Michelle Addington and Daniel L. Schodek
I truly believe the Sheffield School of Architecture will provide a stimulating environment for my future research and inquiry; also working under supervision of the scholars at the University of Sheffield would be the most ideal scenario for me during my PHD study. I am looking forward to have the opportunity to study at the University of Sheffield as a PHD student, to meet the high standards set by this university and to be able to contribute to its environment through my hard work and enthusiasm and to reach my ultimate goal as a professional Architect and faculty member in academia.