A city is like a living organism that reacts to, and thus evolves as its users of the city do. The Indian cities have been greatly influenced by the industrial revolution and technological advancements in the current era. This has changed the entire landscape of architecture and urban design in the country.

Urbanization is an ongoing process, and current projections indicate that within the next fifteen to twenty years 70% of the world’s population will live in cities. Job creation, innovation, and wealth creation are driving factors in the growth of cities. However, there are also social, environmental, and economic challenges associated with urbanization.

As a result of the current urban model used in most cities, private motor vehicles are prioritized, which tends to decrease the frequency of people walking or cycling. The focus has shifted to vehicular access in cities from pedestrian walks. This has led to the loss of public open space and green space.

How urban development is affecting human life - Sheet1
Indian city_©GQ India

A city’s use of urban space primarily for vehicular access adversely impacts aspects directly, such as pollution, emotional isolation and decreased physical movement of users that determine the health of the population.

Another problem of urban and transport planning is climate change, one of the greatest global challenges cities must overcome in the 21st century. Despite their very different effects, air pollution and climate change have a strong connection. A clean environment in cities should be a priority for the city authorities.

Accordingly, we need to include criteria for urban development that consider the addition of green space, human-centric planning, and prioritizing pedestrian traffic to treat buildings, infrastructure, and open spaces that are healthy and adapted to climate change. These strategies may be implemented to contribute to improving people’s health, mental and physical well-being, as well as promoting sustainable practices.

According to a study conducted in Spain, about half of all the roads in Spanish cities are used for mobility and transport, which leaves fewer spaces for pedestrians, resulting in an environment and health that is unsustainable and inequitable. A well-designed and managed public space can have a significant impact on not just health and well-being, but also education, social cohesion, and equity issues.

How urban development is affecting human life - Sheet2
Spanish city_©Travel Triangle

Jacobs criticized the short-sightedness of urban planners in the 1950s in ‘The Death and Life of Great American Cities’ (1961) and argued that their assumptions about what makes a good city are detrimental to human living.

The relationship between a human being and nature is fundamental to their holistic development. The close relationship between humans and their environment over millions of years has created in us a profound emotional need to be close to other forms of life, regardless of whether they are plants or animals. The natural environment has a positive impact on both the physical and mental health of adults and children.

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Green urban city_©The Nature Conservancy

Research has shown that the presence of green infrastructure, independent of urban density, is associated with better self-perceived general health and better mental health, possibly because green spaces reduce stress.

The importance of urban design extends far beyond aesthetic appeal. The goal of creating something unique and individual tends to overshadow concern about how it might influence its inhabitants. The psychological studies of today give us a better understanding of the types of urban environments people like and find interesting. These studies show that urban environments with a high degree of human-scale design are most preferred.

In Ellard’s work, he consistently addresses the fact that people are highly affected by building facades. A façade that is complex and interesting affects people positively; a façade that is simple and monotonous affects people negatively. This is because the human body is rooted in nature, and it responds to the same forces of complexity and monotony in the urban environment that it responds to in the natural environment.

An unpleasant aspect of living in a city is feeling disoriented or lost constantly. Some cities are easier to maneuver than others – New York’s grid-like streets make it relatively easy to navigate.

The way physical spaces are designed can have a measurable impact on the human mind. City-planning, interior design, and architecture can influence human behaviors and mental processes in unexpected ways, causing psychological, physical, and cognitive changes without people noticing.

Impact of city on humans_©Deccan Chronicle

An individual’s relationship with the city is an important consideration for the contextual urban planning and design that involves the locals playing an instrumental role in creating clean, safe, and legible spaces to live and prosper. It brings the community together to build a prosperous city. 

“We shape our buildings and afterwards our buildings shape us.” – Winston Churchill

References:

  1. BigRentz, I., 2022. The Psychology Behind Building and City Design | BigRentz. [online] Bigrentz.com. Available at: <https://www.bigrentz.com/blog/psychology-of-building-and-city-design> [Accessed 3 January 2022].
  2. Kumar, H., 2022. The effects of Urban planning on individual psychology – RTF | Rethinking The Future. [online] RTF | Rethinking The Future. Available at: <https://www.re-thinkingthefuture.com/rtf-fresh-perspectives/a1244-the-effects-of-urban-planning-on-individual-psychology/> [Accessed 3 January 2022].
  3. Imotions. 2022. How architecture affects human behavior. [online] Available at: <https://imotions.com/blog/how-architecture-affects-human-behavior/> [Accessed 3 January 2022].
  4. Bond, M., 2022. The hidden ways that architecture affects how you feel. [online] Bbc.com. Available at: <https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20170605-the-psychology-behind-your-citys-design> [Accessed 3 January 2022].
Author

Kishan Thakkar is an architect based in Ahmedabad exploring creative outlets and entrepreneurship. He is an avid learner who has a penchant for research, analysis and understanding different fields within the architecture and aspires to promote sustainable development. Discipline is the key to balance his diversified interest and work routine.

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