Architecture, through working collaboratively alongside the users and community, has the ability to positively impact the lives of people across the world, no matter what social or economic background they come from. Through my education, I have come to understand the important role that the architect can play in delivering a more inclusive and just society. If we design for those who need the most support in navigating the built environment, then it becomes accessible and inclusive for all users.

Phygital Manchester: An Escape for the Mind (my thesis project), is a localised environment that allows you to positively escape and explore coping mechanisms for your mental health. This thesis, focused on spaces that people find important as coping mechanisms, is set as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic that we are currently enduring and the restrictions that have been imposed on us. The project interconnects constructed spaces from participant outreach during the initial research stages with identified real-life Manchester spaces, to create a localised, cohesive digital environment. This enables users to connect with places (real and digital), connect with people and connect to mental health advice/support, providing an immersive ‘escape’ from being trapped inside the four walls of your home. This research has highlighted the scale and importance of mental health and how architecture can play a vital part in that. It has presented a greater and more detailed understanding of the importance of having coping mechanisms and open space on a local scale, (emphasised during the pandemic), which could be incorporated into future city planning.

Overall, Phygital Manchester takes a step into how we could use localised digital environments to help inform which spaces are important but also prevent future nationwide decline in mental health during any future global pandemics we may experience. 

Instagram: @harry.westwood94 @escapethroughyourwindow