One way to study architectural sociology is to analyse the built form and how it affects or influences the occupants’ behaviour. When analysing an architectural space in terms of sociology, Richard Sennett identifies the porosity of the design, functionality, and utilisation. Architecture produces urban boundaries with rigid architectural elements, clearly demarcating the limits and territoriality of the architectural assemblies.

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This photograph illustrates how architectural typologies gradually draw boundaries by themselves_ ©unequalscenes

You can observe this phenomenon of urban boundaries created by architecture in any neighbourhood where housing units belong to different social classes, each of which has a distinctive architectural style defining its perimeter. Once you cross the boundary, you experience an othering sensation solely due to the architecture that created the area.

A part of sociology termed architectural sociology or sociology of architecture focuses on how societies function and interact with their built environment and architecture. Architectural sociology bases its theories on the tenet that if a structure is significant to architecture, its users—those who will interact with it—are equally important. As a result, their requirements, psychological constitution, and spatial behaviour must be considered when creating a space.

The first step is to comprehend what architectural theory is and how, when applied to design, it affects how people behave, interact, and use space. Architectural theory typically provides justifications for innovative approaches to the field’s discipline and practice and critical analysis of or interpretations of specific architectural projects, movements, or forms. Additionally, it contains guidelines or instructions for architectural design.

Defining Spatiality

“Since the beginning of time, cities have embodied a society’s dreams and aspirations. The stuff that dreams are made of may not be referring only to a city’s built architecture, steel or concrete structures, but to the city as an image in the mind of its inhabitants,” said the legendary architect Charles Correa (2010).

Morgan and Durkheim came up with functional theories, which, being very evolutionary, laid the foundations of the study of built forms and their relationship with the inhabitants and talked about how collective human behaviour can accommodate, express, and reinforce each other. Durkheim saw the built form as integrated with social life. Morgan asserted that the state of the primitive building is nothing but an expression of the social group occupying it. And in Lefebvre’s term, “spatiality” is defined as neither a subject nor an object but rather a set of social relations and built forms (Lefebvre 1991).

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Sketch illustrating spatial relationships connecting sociology and architecture_© Nada Shehab & Ashraf Salama

If a space has social connotations, then those social connotations must logically also be spatial, which merely refers to architectural space. As a result, an architectural space transforms into a setting where the interaction between people and perhaps other areas is established, operationalising the communication between them.

Understanding how sociology, or the study of social groupings, influences the design process and the final architectural output is another way to explore the sociology of architecture. The relationship between communities’ relative locations, the style of architecture they choose to build, and the level of social interaction they decide to have may also be examined through geography.

“We shape our buildings, and afterwards, our buildings shape us.”

Winston Churchill made this well-known comment. The statement implies that a structure initially represents the architect’s imaginative thoughts but that as time passes and the building is occupied, it shows the inhabitants’ quality of life. Architects translate societal requirements into architectural or spatial solutions, and society should advance and prosper.

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Nehru Place in Delhi_ ©LBB

How a user’s interaction with a space might alter its overall functionality. Nehru Place in Delhi is an excellent case study of such a phenomenon, where the functioning of the area has trumped the design of the architectural space.

What kind of connection exists between the individual and the social context or built environment in which they live? What relationship exists between a company and the structure in which it is housed?

Architectural sociology looks at the interaction between sociocultural phenomena and architectural forms. A sizable portion of our human experience and social interaction occurs in the areas where we live and work. Such interactions are investigated and monitored and serve as the basis for a sociological approach to any architectural project to improve building design.

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A Pink Cell in prison_ ©Famuse

Aggressive inmates are placed in pink (Baker-Miller Pink) cells in jails to control their outlandish behaviour. Here, a place’s sociology highlights a specific colour’s psychological impact. Therefore, an experiment and a study of social behaviour that corresponds to architectural conditions must have been done before creating such a space. Architectural sociology explores this. 

Human use of space, inhabitant and contextual inclinations, and post-occupancy evaluation are all areas where research strategies can be helpful to architects. Sociology impacts architecture from the conceptual stage through design, construction, and postconstruction.

Architectural photographs of built spaces where the human figure is barely visible or blurred to exalt the existence of space while overlooking the presence of the users of that space can help us understand this tendency, contested by architectural sociology.

Sociology and architecture are related fields that share ideas and expertise. Together, they address the message our built environment conveys about our society, making architectural sociology a significant human-centred field of study in the modern era.

Karl Marx urged us to change the world, not just interpret it.


Beaman, J. (2002) Architectural sociology. Academic and Professional Affairs. Available at: (Accessed: November 9, 2022).

Churchill and the Commons Chamber (no date) UK parliament. Available at: (Accessed: November 9, 2022).

Jamil, G. (2017) Accumulation by segregation: Muslim localities in Delhi. New Delhi, India: Oxford University Press.

This colour might change your life: Kendall Jenner and Baker-Miller pink (2017) The Guardian. Guardian News and Media. Available at: (Accessed: November 10, 2022).


Sadiq Zafar is a practicing architect, urban policy researcher, and planner who previously worked for a national research institute and held the position of assistant professor at the Jamia Millia Islamia in New Delhi. He researched urban poor housing neighborhoods while working as a sustainability planner in Gonda, Uttar Pradesh.