Champion of mental wellbeing for colleagues and the wider profession
Senior architect and mental wellbeing ambassador, Assael Architecture
Part 1: 2010 Part 2: 2012
Benjamin Channon identified a significant problem within architecture and had the courage and vision to take genuine, practical steps to improve it, with great and wide success.
Following his own struggle with mental health while completing his part 3 in 2014, Channon became determined to change how the issue was viewed and supported within architecture. At the time the problem was still somewhat taboo, and so to improve his own health Channon began meditating and learning about mindfulness.
Now, alongside his full-time job as a project architect at Assael Architecture, he works passionately to improve mental health not only for his colleagues – he is the mental health ambassador at the practice – but also in the wider industry through his qualification as a mindfulness practitioner and qualified mental health first aider. Channon uses these skills to coach students and young architects through the Stephen Lawrence Trust and the Architects Benevolent Society (ABS), while his role at Assael promotes an open dialogue about the issues, educating and supporting staff.
However, what impressed this year’s judges particularly was that more recently he has been using his experience to reach an even wider audience, engaging with the subject of how architecture itself affects people psychologically and how architects can better serve public wellbeing.
I have a vision of an industry where all-nighters are not celebrated and where exhaustion or stress are not worn as badges of honour
This year Channon founded the Architects’ Mental Wellbeing Forum to allow practices across the country to share knowledge about supporting the mental health of staff, and to collaborate in researching ways to improve the working lives of everybody in the profession. Firms including Make, Hawkins\Brown and AHMM are on board, alongside representatives from the RIBA and ABS, and the forum is developing a toolkit of advice for practices.
On top of this, Channon has just published his first book, Happy by Design: Architecture and Mental Wellbeing, a design guide aimed at making architects more aware of how their buildings affect the happiness of users – and as a way of spreading the message about the impact the built environment has on people’s mental wellbeing.
What would you most like to improve about the industry?
I have a vision of an industry where all-nighters are not celebrated, staying later than the boss is not seen as an obligation, and where exhaustion or stress are not worn as badges of honour. The Forum shows we are still a long way from achieving this, but that attitudes are gradually improving.