Xia Bi 畢夏 - PhD. Design Behaviour

0 Projects


PhD Researcher

Mr BI Xia



PhD Proposal Title

Design for Positive Solitary Behaviours in Public Space


Behaviour Design, Public Design, Social Design, Positive Solitude, Loneliness

Research Objectives

The objectives of this project are to observe, understand and explore the needs of the positive solitude of people, especially college students, and examine how these factors apply to the design of public spaces that can provide opportunities and inclusion for the need for positive solitude. This study will explore the objectives above by asking the following questions:

1. What is the value of positive solitude?

2. What is positive solitude to college students?

3. How to guide people to experience positive solitude through behavioural design?

4. How to design public spaces that can be experienced with positive solitude?

Solitude is an experience that ranges from sublime to mundane. (S.W. Lee, 2013) For some people, solitude is a status that they avoid at all costs; other people are intoxicated in solitude and try hard to earn it. There are some researchers indicating that solitude as a state is related to loneliness (M. G. Davies, 1996; C. Killeen,1998; Long, 2003; D. A. Sbarra, 2015), However, some other literature argued that infrequently experiencing solitude positively contributes to people's mental well-being, emotion regulation, creativity and other psychological outcomes, such as a protective alternative to a school’s social busyness or a healthy balance for such community (N. Burke, 1991; Aruguete, Scott, & Von Waldner, 2004; Nguyen,2018; H. Lees, 2021).

Although solitude has been proven to be a demand of part of people and has positive psychological effects, however, the functions, quality and experience of time spent alone has been relatively neglected, also there are only very few spaces and facilities designed for solitary use in our cities (Coan, D. A. Sbarra, 2015; A. Smirnova. A, 2018). In this regard, public spaces based on positive solitude are needed.

Research Methodology

Survey studies, site studies, field observations, interviews with the users will be conducted in this proposal. This project relies on a survey study that examines behavioural preference for positive solitude, loneliness, extraversion and introversion in college students. The analysis of this study will be the guide for further design considerations and decisions. 

Project Significance and Value

  • Benefits to the Mental Health of College Students

Many scholars have pointed out the importance of the translation period between adolescence and emerging adulthood and connected it with loneliness, social withdrawal, social isolation and peer exclusion (Bolivin, Hemel & Bukowskim, 1995; Goosens et al., 2009; Vanhalst, Luyckx & Goosens, 2014). It has been raised that the translation period between adolescence and emerging adulthood is the time in one’s life that social connections are necessary and social isolation can lead to the psychological issue of loneliness (Larson, 1990, 1999). However, more recent studies also suggested that being alone or having time doing something is essential for emotional regulation and self-consciousness building during this stage of one’s life (Marcoen & Goosens, 1993; Nguyen, Werner & Soenens, 2019.) This becomes a dilemma to the adolescents and young adults’ decisions on the balance of how much time they need to spend with others and the time they are alone. Even though social time and solitary time seem an antithetical bias to one another, both of them are supported to be important for the college age's healthy development (Nguyen et al., 2019). However, most of the present practices of public spaces in cities are designed for social use and lack of designed space for positive solitary use which can be positive for people’s psychological healthy development. Therefore, the hypothesis of helping college students to turn to experience negative social isolation into enjoying positive solitude by using public spaces designed for positive solitude has societal relevance value.

  • Benefits to the mental wellbeing after the onset of the COVID-19 epidemic

The Corona Virus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), first started in China in December 2019, has spread across the globe within a few months and was declared a pandemic on March 11th, 2020. Many mental health professionals and scholars predict that the pandemic will have both profound and long-lasting impacts on mental health worldwide (Holmes et al., 2020). Public health strategies to curb the spread of the coronavirus involve sheltering at home and social distancing are effective in reducing the transmission rate.

However, the unintended consequences of prolonged social isolation on mental health, especially in Hong Kong, have been investigated that 65% of the residents struggled with the problems of depression, anxiety or stress, 22.5% of the respondents were showing signs of psychosis risk (Tso & Park, 2020). The research is focused on Hong Kong for its very rapid and comprehensive response to the pandemic and strictly enacted social distancing protocols. It is a model case for the population-wide practice of effective social distancing and provides an opportunity to examine and interfere with the impact of loneliness on mental health during the COVID-19. The research hypothesis is that promoting infrequently experiencing positive solitude could reduce psychological depression and stress (N. Burke, 1991; Aruguete, Scott, & Von Waldner, 2004; Nguyen,2018; H. Lees, 2021). In such context, an experimental design application this project proposed has the potential to make psychological contributions to society.


Boivin, M., Hymel, S., & Bukowski, W. M. (1995). The roles of social withdrawal, peer rejection, and victimization by peers in predicting loneliness and depressed mood in childhood. Development and Psychopathology, 7(4), 765-785.

Burke, N. (1991). College psychotherapy and the development of a capacity for solitude. Journal of College Student Psychotherapy, 6(2), 59-86.

Coan, J. A., & Sbarra, D. A. (2015). Social baseline theory: The social regulation of risk and effort. Current Opinion in Psychology, 1, 87-91.

Davies, M. G. (1996). Solitude and loneliness: An integrative model. Journal of Psychology and Theology, 24(1), 3-12.

Goossens, L., Lasgaard, M., Luyckx, K., Vanhalst, J., Mathias, S., & Masy, E. (2009). Loneliness and solitude in adolescence: A confirmatory factor analysis of alternative models. Personality and Individual Differences, 47(8), 890-894.

Holmes, E.A., O'Connor, R.C., Perry, V.H., Tracey, I., Wessely, S., Arseneault, L., Ballard, C., Christensen, H., Cohen Silver, R., Everall, I., Ford, T., John, A., Kabir, T., King, K., Madan, I., Michie, S., Przybylski, A.K., Shafran, R., Sweeney, A., Worthman, C.M., Yardley, L., Cowan, K., Cope, C., Hotopf, M., Bullmore, E. (2020). Multidisciplinary research priorities for the COVID-19 pandemic: a call for action for mental health science. The Lancet Psychiatry.

Larson, R. (1990). The solitary side of life: An examination of the time people spend alone from childhood to old age. Developmental Review, 10 (2), 155-183.

Larson, R. (1999). The uses of loneliness in adolescence. In K. J. Rotenberg & S. Hymel (Eds.), Loneliness in Childhood and Adolescence. New York: Cambridge University Press, 244-262.

Lee, S.W. (2013), A Study on Exploring People’s Affinity for Solitude. Texas A&M University.

Lees, H. E. (2021), Solitude and Schooling (Chapter, forthcoming), Handbook of Solitude. Bloomsbury.

Long, C. R., Seburn, M., Averill, J. R. & More, T. A. (2003). Solitude experiences: Varieties, settings, and individual differences. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 29(5), 578-583.

Killeen, C. (1998). Loneliness: An epidemic in modern society. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 28 (4), 762-770.

Marcoen, A. & Goossens, L. (1993). Loneliness, attitude toward aloneness, and solitude – Age differences and developmental significance during adolescence. In S. Jackson & H. Rodriguez-Tome, Eds, Adolescence and its social worlds. United Kingdom: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Ltd, 197-227.

McCutcheon, L. E., Aruguete, M., Scott, V. B. & VonWaldner, K. L. (2004). Preference for solitude and attitude toward one’s favourite celebrity. North American Journal of Psychology, 6(3), 499-506.

Nguyen, T.-V. T., Ryan, R. M. & Deci, E. L. (2018). Solitude as an approach to affective self-regulation. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 44(1), 92–106.

Nguyen, T. -V T., Werner, K. M. & Soenens, B. (2019) Embracing me-time: motivation for solitude during transition to college, Motivation and Emotion, 43 (4). 571-591.

Smirnova, A. (2018). Manufacturing Solitude, Vol.5. The Revelation of Loneliness Reframed, 5-6.

Vanhalst, J., Luyckx, K., & Goossens, L. (2014). Experiencing loneliness in adolescence: A matter of individual characteristics, negative peer experiences, or both? Social Development, 23(1), 100-118.

Qualifications and Awards

Master of Art, Interior Behaviours, Interior Design, School of Architecture, Royal College of Art, London, United Kingdom, 2018-2020

Bachelor of Art, Studio Home Better Home, Product Design, Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing, China, 2013-2017 

'Solitudism' C-IDEA Design Grand Award, 2021

'Solitudism' C-IDEA Design Award Exhibition, Seoul, South Korea, 2021

'Solitudism' Singapore Art Design Contest Silver Award, 2021

'Solitudism' CADA Japanese Conceptual Design Bronze Award, 2021

'Solitudism' Hong Kong Contemporary Design Bronze Awards, 2021

'Solitudism' Britan International Creative Competition Bronze Award, 2021

'Solitudism' Zhu Hai Design Week New Force Grand Award, 2020

'Democratic Seat' Kortirjk Design Week 2019, Kortrijk, Belgium, 2019

'The Corner' C Foundation Scholarship for Excellence Program National Award, China,  2017


Prof. Kin Wai Michael Siu