It is very natural how a place can evoke an emotion in one’s mind. The sense of sight, touch, and smell are used for the contemplation of the built form. Psychology is a complicated matter as every person has a different perception of space around them. Architecture is a physically built form, and psychology in architecture relates to the individualistic experience of a place.
Research and studies pose the question of whether architecture will stimulate a person’s mind to create a motivating environment to work, play, or anything subjective to the place. The design of a place can make a person feel happy, playful, curious, depressed, and even angry just by controlling the physical elements. Architectural psychology is basically like a calculated organization of tangible forms to achieve intangible emotions. Perception of space in mind is essential for a built structure to function effectively.
Colour Psychology is a field of study based on how colours influence human behaviour and mood. It is proven that colours can affect a person’s mind. Different colours have different wavelengths associated with stimulating different emotions to bring about reactions in humans. Using lighter shades makes a room appear larger, while darker shades make the room appear smaller.
Colours aren’t only associated with different emotions but also sometimes with cultural beliefs. Some countries have colours associated with their cultural and religious beliefs. In some parts of India, the colours red, yellow (turmeric), and sometimes orange are considered sacred by the Hindus due to their traditions. In Imperial China, the colour yellow was the emperor’s colour, representing goodwill and luck.
Warm colours like yellow, orange evoke positive feelings like happiness, joy, and good energy. Red is a colour that is most sensitive to the human eye and immediately grabs attention. Hence all signage is in red. It is an intimidating colour as well, which is used to show dominance. Red also is a warm colour associated with love and passion.
Cool colours can impart a soothing or calming effect, but they can also depict sadness. Blue is a safe colour that makes one feel comforted. Green is full of energy and gives a refreshing vibe. Purple indicates a creative mind. Grey, white and black are considered neutral colours, and they can be used to make bold statements through built form.
Depending upon the type of ambience that has to be created in the design, each design has a colour palette that is chosen to decide beforehand what the end-user must feel walking through the designed space. For example, a school is designed with bright coloured walls, and all the equipment and toys are brightly coloured. Children are most active, and their brain development happens at a very early stage, and thus it is important to use bright colours to stimulate brain activity.
The physical attribute that influences the perception of space is texturing in architecture. It also has a visual aspect that is seen when light falls on the texture. So, a tactile and visual connection can be made using built form simultaneously. Texture also brings out the materiality of a surface. Every material is different, some in their natural state are rough and delicate, but with human intervention, the material is altered to fit the need. Smooth textured surfaces are preferred in the interiors to create a safe environment for the users.
The users would feel unsafe in a room with roughly textured walls as it can cause damage and cause inconvenience. Natural textures involve natural materials that are manicured to fit the function. Artificial textures are artificial textures using man-made materials. These are usually smooth finishes preferred for interiors. Texture also adds depth and structure when light falls on it, creating a visual in the observer’s mind. Balance and rhythm can also be achieved using textures to create a sense of ease in humans.
Light and shadow
The play of light and shadow has been used by architects to create an interesting spatial organization like Louis Khan, B.V Doshi, etc., The use of modern LED installations has shifted the reliance on natural light as an integral part of the design. But, light is believed to bring the built form to life. Lighting designers often tend to use light to evoke emotions of curiosity, comfort, and excitement. Not every place has the same lighting. Depending on the function, lighting type is used.
Ambient light is used for residential projects for living rooms and bedrooms while neon lights and vibrant lights are used in a gaming arcade. This is because in a house the function is simple and private where the requirement of light is essential but in a gaming arcade or a pub, the activity doesn’t require more light. The ambiance of the places is pre-determined while designing.
When it comes to natural light, however, it is not easy to control the amount of light that enters the room, the orientation of the built form is permanently fixed to be adjusted to the sun path. This is essential as the amount of light in a place has a psychological effect. People tend to feel more active and energetic in a well-lit room than in a dimly lit room. This logic is used to design institutions, residences, and public spaces.
The size of a building is probably among the first few things that evoke a response from a person. It is the most relatable thing in terms of physical attributes. The somatic response to a built form depends on the scale and proportion. A tall and large building with a monumental scale is bound to leave the spectators intimidated and conscious. Political buildings and judicial bodies tend to have this feature where scale and materials are used to create a stern and serious environment.
The human scale is, however, used in most buildings to seem welcoming. People are more comfortable around low-rise buildings than high-rise and bulky buildings. Proportion is important to create harmony among various parts of the built form. Anthropology plays an important role in determining the scale and proportion of buildings. Apart from affecting the human mind, scale and proportion also play an important role in visual connectivity and the overall look of the built form.
Any natural element infused with built form has one main aim that is to create a sense of peace. Nature has a way to calm one’s mind and that is introduced as the landscape in architecture. Environmental psychology is the study of human interaction with the surrounding, especially the natural environment. Landscape as a whole is a vast subject that is interdisciplinary and focuses on the integration of nature in built forms.
The most abundantly available natural resource for landscape design is plants and trees. The use of landscape to improve mental health and encourage physical activity is most preferably used in hospital and old-age home designs. Natural elements are also used for beautification and to add an aesthetic value to a place. This is done to evoke a sense of luxury. Urban landscaping is done to improve public health and fitness. These include parks, jogging tracks, etc.
Psychology in architecture is an ongoing study and there is always something new to discover as one starts to go into the details. But one thing is for sure, that architecture does affect the human mind. This brings an opportunity to architects to make more relatable, approachable designs for different functions to evoke different emotions.