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Glass windows of building

Hospital Architecture, Restrictive Practices and wellbeing (HARP) 

  • School: School of Architecture, Design and the Built Environment
  • Starting: 2023
  • Funding: UK student


Nottingham is a particularly diverse and multi-faceted city that is home to citizens from a multiplicity of backgrounds. Nottingham is the largest urban area in the East Midlands and the second largest urban area in the Midlands. This creates unique challenges, specifically for Nottingham citizens who are likely to experience worse mental health outcomes than others, such as adults who are unemployed, have limited levels of physical activity and live in challenging physical and social environments. Severe Multiple Disadvantage (SMD) has been identified as a core priority in the Joint Health and Wellbeing Strategy for Nottingham April 2022-March 2025. There is also increasing emphasis on the need to address health and social inequalities relating to mental health and wellbeing, as well as a growing recognition of the benefits of biophilic design towards enhancing wellbeing.

High security hospitals offer unique environments in which to study architectural design. They offer unusual institutional and professional spaces with cross overs between healthcare and the criminal justice system.There are only three high security hospitals in England with one being located within Nottinghamshire. Whilst those accommodated within high security hospitals are patients not prisoners, their experiences from within such environments are often equivocal. Whilst the reason for detention within a secure hospital takes place through recognition that a person requires significant care and treatment (rather than detention or punishment in prison), the buildings are designed in such ways as to prioritise risk and security, often having negative impacts upon mental health and wellbeing to which they are intended.

System transformation is required for restrictive practices to be reduced and for patient experiences to be improved, meaning that physical, procedural and relational changes are needed. Such changes are likely to be possible through closer examinations of biophilic design within high security hospitals to promote health and wellbeing and enable recovery. Biophilic design philosophy encourages the integration of natural systems and living organism in design to allow for exposure to nature. Research evidence demonstrates that the built environment has causal impacts upon health and wellbeing. Biophilic design has the potential to improve mental health and wellbeing within restrictive environments, offering scope for creativity to co-produce physical environments patients and healthcare professionals in ways that positively impact emotional, cultural and behavioural wellbeing, especially for those in secure hospitals in longer term care.

This project has been co-created and is supported by researchers from Nottingham Trent University, the University of Nottingham and partners at Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust. The successful candidate for this project would be enrolled at the University of Nottingham

Project Aims

The aims of this project are to examine the influences of architecture, specifically biophilic design, upon mental health and wellbeing within a high security hospital context, within which those who are accommodated experience SMD. These will be examined in a high security hospital environment in Nottingham, with a view to reducing restrictive practices and improving mental health and wellbeing.

Project Supervisor

What is Co(l)laboratory?

Co(l)laboratory is pioneering new programme supported by Nottingham Trent University, the University of Nottingham and the Universities for Nottingham partnership. The programme aims to bring together researchers, community-focused organisations and local citizens to deliver meaningful change for the people of Nottingham and Nottinghamshire. All our studentships have been developed through collaborations between academics and local, community-focused organisations to shape the research projects around the priorities of local communities.

Who are we looking for?

Co(l)laboratory aims to bridge the gap between academia and communities through a holistic programme of co-created research that actively engages with public groups. As we work to build a different way of doing PhD research, we need candidates who are socially conscious and invested in Nottingham and Nottinghamshire communities to join us. If you are an inspired individual with practical experience and a passion for creating positive change, Co(l)laboratory can help you elevate your knowledge and skills and make a lasting impact.

Entry qualifications

These PhDs are targeted towards students from non-traditional backgrounds and applicants do not necessarily need a first or 2.1 degree. Applications are open to local citizens, employees and practitioners.

How to apply

Applications to all Co(l)laboratory 2023 PhD studentships must be submitted through through our online applications portal HERE. This also applies to Co(l)laboratory studentships which are hosted at the University of Nottingham. Applications open at 12pm on Thursday 22nd December 2023 and close at 12pm on Monday 6th February 2023.

Fees and funding

This is a funded PhD project for UK applicants.

Guidance and support

For more information on Co(l)laboratory PhD studentships, contact Alex Nkrumah at

Still need help?

Alex Nkrumah