Architects are constantly challenged and entrusted with a nearly impossible task of designing spaces that are all-inclusive, satisfying the needs of every person within a target user group. Although one may achieve to successfully meet general program requirements illustrated for diverse crowds, there still, however, remains a matter of whether spaces are perceived equally by every individual, as intended by the creator.
Despite sincere and careful thought while designing, an architect may face a certain amount of ambiguity that could come into existence when considering the psychological behaviour of individuals over just anthropometry and ergonomics.
Does every user experience similar emotions and reflect the same attitude to an architectural space? Or, do these spaces have an affiliation to a specific gender or age group that interacts with them?
In an attempt to answer these questions, this article explores why differences arise while associating with architectural spaces and what factors influence them.
Perception is defined as the awareness of one’s immediate environment through sensations. It is stated that no two individuals can perceive an object or a physical setting entirely in the same manner.
However, there exist certain classifications of individuals who share relatively similar perceptions of objects and environments due to common experiences and emotions. These categorizations could be human age, gender, culture and language, social group, occupation or location. Each category is in-built with its pre-requisites that enable the individuals to physically and mentally inhabit a space with unique emotional bonds.
Age Does Matter
Teenagers eventually outgrow their childhood bedrooms, young adults would prefer a remodel of their teenage rooms and finally, full-grown adults would desire an entirely new physical setting altogether.
While an architect could tend to the needs of grown individuals through memories or familiarity, creating satisfactory spaces for developing children poses a challenge that is often difficult to fathom. It is undeniably hard to remember accurately how one perceived environments as a child and thus, designing solely on an adult’s perspective by following a set of standard requirements drafted by an authority or institution would not do justice to the spaces intended for a child’s functioning.
Moreover, designing with a mere focus on form, function and aesthetics would not create a sense of place attachment. This would also result in a failure in the stimulation of a child’s cognitive functioning and development.
Childhood is a time of exploration, fantasy and play, and a child’s perception is hence an active experience where environmental stimulations are gathered and learned through mobility.
To create a bond with architectural spaces, children must be allowed to be cognitively alert to external stimuli through movement, create their boundaries and evaluate, and develop a sense of control over their spaces without any restrictions. Therefore, spaces that manifest intrinsic qualities such as elements of surprise, adventure, and opportunities to discover show more potential of bringing senses of attachment to children and positively enhance their perceptions of spaces.
Early experiences and relationships with the environment influence a person’s affiliation towards it, and these interpretations are known to differ greatly between men and women.
The differences have risen basically through biological tendencies and behaviour, but also due to culture-based roles and social priorities. It is thus realised that both genders look at the same world from a different perspective.
In general, it is commonly observed that a woman’s instinct is to connect and show sensitivity. They desire inclusiveness as a result of being forcefully exposed to patriarchal practices in a male dominant world. Hence, they long for comfort and calmness in the architectural spaces that they inhabit, characteristics that usually remind them of the space they feel most welcome in, that is their home.
Furthermore, it is stated that a woman’s sensory perception is superior to that of men. This allows them to focus more on details and nuances which may otherwise be missed out by their male counterparts.
On the other hand, men desire security and peace and hence tend to keep to themselves. However, they also enjoy their freedom to explore public spaces without being bound to a certain fixed territory. It is thus observed that men are more aware of situations and circumstances due to greater comprehensive thinking and better spatial visualization. Men also show a better sense of orientation than most women.
To Be Truly Inclusive
To conclude, it is usually observed that most architectural spaces lack total gender neutrality and overcome distinct age boundaries. Architects from across the world must therefore bear upon themselves an added responsibility of creating suitable spaces that are attentive to the expectations and behaviours of all users.
Built spaces are required to respond to the varied perceptions and common activities of every classification mentioned, that is, based on gender, age, society, culture, etc., and adapt accordingly. Only then can designed environments perform efficiently in all aspects and earn acceptance by their diverse inhabitants.
- Architecture for Children – https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/11779912.pdf
- Gender Space Architecture: An Interdisciplinary Introduction- https://www.researchgate.net/publication/235673893_Gender_Space_Architecture_An_Interdisciplinary_Introduction