Charité mental health design hackathon- In the mind of the others
On Friday the 17th, many people from various disciplines like neuroscience, design, architecture, philosophy, psychology, psychiatry and healthcare got together to design neighborhoods that promote better mental health and well-being.
The spaces we live in and move through affect our mood, well-being and behavior. You can’t deny that the “starry sky” at U Museumsinsel puts a smile on your face. Or how buildings with good lighting, ample ventilation and rooftops with great views make that lunch break better!
Urban designs that are created with mental health in mind are crucial.
This “design hackathon” was conceptualized by Charité’s postdoc researcher Prateep Beed, as part of the Brain Awareness Week 2023, with support from the Einstein Center for Neurosciences Berlin and the NeuroCure Cluster of Excellence. Volunteers Margarita Sison, Jeehye, Shehani Jayalath and Paula Eberhard helped with the organization of the event.
The goals of the hackathon were the following:
- To design neighborhoods, especially in urban areas that cater to the mental well-being of citizens
- To bring together bright minds from diverse areas such as neuroscience, urban design and psychology to work on a challenge together
- To ideate, design and integrate different solutions for the hackathon challenge, thereby learning from and complementing each other's specializations
- To set in motion a continuity within this hackathon community to carry on with collaborating on such societal issues of utmost importance
The broader task of this hackathon was to create urban designs for better mental health and well-being, with a focus on three main themes:
- Diversity and inclusivity: creating designs for diverse communities (i.e., youth, elderly, differently-abled, women, etc.,) thereby promoting inclusivity
- Climate neutrality: designs that incorporate aspects of sustainability
- Mobility and flow: modifying transportation systems within urban spaces (i.e., incorporating car-free zones/squares within cities)
6 groups of participants were randomly allocated into one of the above themes.
The designs were judged by an interdisciplinary panel on the following criteria:
Group 1 introduced the concept of mindful maps for inclusivity and diversity. What if your google map could also tell you where the most lit path to go back home is or what is the best way for someone in a wheelchair to navigate?
Group 2 mimicked the impressive connectivity of our brains and how this can be translated into a city - achieving maximum connectivity at a minimum cost! The brain, with its many local connections, can be seen as akin to a walkable city, where needs are accessible within 15 mins of walking.
Group 3 was a case study on the sensory overload at U Potsdamer Platz, how this affects mental health and what could be done to improve it. They suggested the use of green images, bird songs and floral scents.
Group 4 used Jannowitzbrücke as their neighbourhood of choice and focused on reducing energy consumption and recycling what already exists. Their idea to create roofs that produce renewable energy using angled solar panels, with lovely roof gardens that are connected to other rooftops via little walkways, is a win-win for sustainability and better mental health!
Group 5 focused on the socialization within a neighborhood and the need for community activities for good mental health. They used Landsberger Allee to visualize their ideas: satellite buildings for schools & pavillions, using underused green areas into social hubs and introducing city buddies who can show newbies around the city.
Lastly, group 6, drew inspiration from dome structures in Japanese gardens to create “zen domes”. These are mental health support points with counsellors present and space for meditation, power nap areas, etc.
Group 1 emerged as the winner while groups 3 and 6 were tied for 2nd and 3rd places. All three groups will be given the opportunity to realize their ideas with professionals!
This design hackathon was the perfect place for innovative ideas to be born. Getting minds from different walk of life allow issues to be looked at from multiple perspectives – and that is a really good thing to solve multidimensional problems! We hope the participants were stimulated by this experience and continue to appreciate and involve in collaboration on cross-disciplinary tasks.