Architecture and the design of space can generate variable emotions among humans. Intentional design of spaces, keeping in mind the users and their needs, has resulted in positive human behavior. Humans spend nearly 80% of their time inside built environments. The design and comfort of these spaces have a massive impact on the mood and behavior of human beings. Along with the interior space, the surroundings and the environment also affect human behavior and psychology. The human mind also seeks connectivity with its surrounding environment from time to time to seek comfort in nature and its sounds. The psychology of space believes that the surroundings matter as much as the interior built environment. 

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Comfortable spaces with natural light_©
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SuperKilen Park Denmark_©

A dark space with ineffective lighting and ventilation makes a person feel dull and gloomy while a well-lit and well-ventilated room with cheerful colors makes a person feel comfortable and welcome. Allowing natural light and ventilation with the inclusion of nature has proved to be therapeutic and healing. The design of spaces also depends hugely on the perception of the client. While residential and commercial structures have to cater to the client’s requirements, an architect can explore human psychology and design dramatic spaces for public architecture like museums, churches, or universities. A defined theme with a targeted audience allows the architect to explore more and create designs that generate a particular emotion in the user.

Visual stimuli

An architectural space can be perceived through various senses, but one of the more strong senses is the visual sense. Our minds are stimulated either positively or negatively by the space around us through our eyes. Colors can create a pre-conceived experience for the user of the space, where the user can carry his emotions throughout the experience, thanks to the drama of colors. One of the most striking stimuli experienced is through the colors used in an architectural space. While colors like yellow and red create an enthusiastic and bright atmosphere, the green and blue colors represent calmness and positivity.

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Superkilen Park Denmark_©

Colors also provide different stimulations for different types of development. For example, colors are used in schools and parks to motivate the psychological and sensory development of a child. In urban, industrialized centers, a pop of bright colors in an urban plaza like the Superkilen Park by BIG Architects helps restore liveliness and gives the street an identity. Architects like Luis Barragan and Legoretta have designed spaces by incorporating colors to generate various emotions like calmness, excitement, playfulness, etc. Barragan and Legoretta have played with colors, fenestrations, and textures to create liveliness in a space. 

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Legoretta and Colours_©
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Yellow corridor Luis Barragan_©

The scale of a space

Built spaces are said to be monumental or humble in comparison with human anthropology. The feeling of being a tiny spectator in the vast world, for example, in Hagia Sophia, or feeling like the king or queen inside the comfort of your home is the drama that the magic of scale can create. Human beings relate to a place and, accordingly, emotions or feelings for that space are stimulated, making human behavior either comfortable or uncomfortable regarding the scale of the built environment. The frequency of visits to the same place also determines the emotions felt by the person in that particular space.

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Monumental Hagia Sophia_©

For the first time, a person visiting Manhattan might not associate with the high-rise structures and may feel belittled. But, with regular visits and more time spent among these structures, the same person will feel more and more comfortable among the high rises of Manhattan, soon calling it home. The architect can make users feel these emotions of monumentality and humility by incorporating concepts of human anthropology, scale, and relativity. We have experienced and observed that earlier rulers and emperors created monumental structures which generated feelings of power and strength during their times. As times have changed, the nature and scale of built structures have also changed, affecting the behavior of humans.

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Intimate scale_©
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Humble and cozy living_©

Experiential design

Architects and designers have the power and ability to create dramatic and emotionally stimulating spaces through the experiential design of built spaces, including aspects of scale, color, form, texture, and perception. Public spaces like museums have the power to immerse their users in a unique experience of narrating the stories of the past. Experiential design for museums would help create a much more enriching and educational journey for the visitors. Well-designed dramatic spaces lead to appropriate story-telling and convey emotions felt by the people in history.

Architect Daniel Libeskind has connected the humans of today to the humans of the past by creating chilling experiences of the Holocaust through the experiential design of the Jewish Museum. The spaces are devoid of color, with hollow, narrow spaces making visitors feel empty, helpless, and, at times, disoriented. Libeskind has truly connected the museum-goers to the emotions felt by the Jews. The visitors have described the museum experience as thought-provoking and bone-chilling. Through his design, Libeskind succeeded in narrating the drama of the past, thus achieving the crucial aim of telling the story of the Holocaust. 

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The Jewish Museum_©
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Zaha Hadid and dramatic spaces_©Hufton_Crow
Maggie center by Zaha Hadid_©

The use of positive dramatics in a regularly used space has a positive impact on the health and well-being of the user. The importance of happiness and stress-free living can be promoted through the better design of residences and commercial spaces. Along with built spaces, a lively urban public environment encourages users to move out of built spaces and connect with nature and surroundings. Dramatic and experiential designs of museums and cultural centers would interest more and more people to learn more about their history, culture, and art, engaging communities and leading to happier populations. These spaces make a huge difference in bringing a sense of identity to the city or town.  


  1. Matheus Pereira (2018). The Role of Color in Architecture: Visual Effects and Psychological Stimuli

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  1. Adrian Welch (2020). Architecture and Its Effect on Human Behavior & Psychology

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  1. Evan Pavka (2010). AD Classics: Jewish Museum, Berlin / Studio Libeskind

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Poornima is an architect from the city of Pune. Being a heritage enthusiast, she loves to explore the various threads of architecture, culture, and ecology that tie a community. She hopes to bring about a change in the perception of development in India.

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