Architecture has a huge impact not only on children but all its users. Every element from materials to dimensions have a psychological effect on its users. This article focuses on the impact architecture has on children and gives examples of impactful architecture.

“The child laughs:
«My love and wisdom is the game!»
The young man sang:
«The game and my wisdom is love!»
The old man is silent:
«My love and my game is wisdom!» “
(Lucian Blaga (1895-1961 Romania) Three Girls)

Our psychic development depends on both internal and external factors. Internal factors, or conditions-our native heritage, passed on by the genetic mechanism, the effects of biological development, maturation, and the totality of our skills, passions, ideals, aspirations, feelings or opinions. The external factors are the environment and the education received. The environment represents the totality of elements that affect the child in a direct or indirect way. Although the environment can be divided into two categories, the physical and the social, they are always interdependent and don’t act separately. When we say one was born in Paris, we have in mind a certain milieu, an association where you cannot separate the buildings from its users and their habits and behaviors.

The Impact of Architecture on Children -1Clare Cooper-Marcus (1934) is an American architect, born in London, United Kingdom, concerned with landscape architecture, social architecture, but foremost with the potential healing of the environment. In 1995 she published a book titled ‘House as a Mirror of Self’ in which she aims to prove the expressiveness of our interiors as they function, as a “mirror of our inner psychological self”, as herself states, meaning that they leave an imprint on our personalities, and also the other way around- we give meaning to the spaces we inhabit, from early childhood. The book comes out after a research of no less than 25 years period in which she interviewed more than 65 people about their homes, with the majority of them living in the San Francisco Bay Area. The first chapter of her book is dedicated to The Special Places of Childhood, which we are going to discuss briefly. 

The Impact of Architecture on Children -2

Secret Homes: Hiding Places in Childhood are the places that reflect for the first time, our personality. It is our first statement of self, the first form of autonomy, a manifestation of self, and separation from our parents. It can be a secret corner in the room, a room that is not used in the house, a secret place in the courtyard or in the garden, or tree, it could be anything that is invested with special meaning by the child. This is why it is important as a parent to let the children express themselves creatively because this will prepare them for future adulthood. But isn’t it that place of hiding, going to haunt us all our lives, isn’t it going to become that getaway trip from the everyday life, that one month in Bali or the honeymoon away from every known person?

Recalling Child-Created Dwellings are those places that we give secret names, in order to separate them from the adult world, this being part of the process of individuation of spaces. It could be a space in the house, a natural setting or even the child’s bedroom, anything that is private, but not necessarily secret. It had to be away from the adults, it had to be the child’s universe. In this way, they learned about boundaries, physical and psychological. This is their first experience as architects of their own spaces and lives, in both literal and metaphorical ways that could impact their future way of choosing their place of living. Or, as would Heidegger say, it is their first dwelling on this earth.

Making a Home-Away-from-Home are the spaces created by adults, specifically for the children, but who don’t consult or involve the latter. Thus, they are made many times in a manner that doesn’t serve the child’s wishes or needs as he cannot adjust the environment, and this will trigger a set of frustrations. For a grownup, this is the kind of restriction you have when you rent an apartment and are not allowed to do any significant alteration that usually end up making one feel restrained and devoid of a sense of belongingness by not being allowed to express their individuality.

Please name and/or describe from your childhood’s memory, any particular sound that you recall.

I was born in an urban area but grew up a lot of farms, so silence, mostly, or in activities, I read a lot, and rode my horses and had fires, so the sound of pages, hooves on dirt and birds and crackling of a fire (Australia)

Traffic (U.S.A)

Waives of the Atlantic Ocean being heard 24/7 in Holiday House as it had no completely closable windows (Germany)

The sound of dinner bells ringing. Each of my friend’s homes had a different bell that was wrung at dinner time to call us home to dine (U.S.A)

Church bell (Netherlands)

Native birds, school children playing (I lived next to a primary school) (China)
Squeaking of the wooden staircase (Italy)
Birds in the trees (Australia)
Playground (France)
Product clean for floor and when my mother cooked (Chile)
The bell of the school behind the flat (U.K)
My mom’s voice (Czech Republic)
The sound of my toilet flushing, it was always loud; I knew from any corner of the apartment that someone just flushed the toilet (Romania)
Sound of the doorbell, the sound of waves (Polonia)
A neighbor’s whistle (U.S.A.)
The chirping of birds and horses walking (Czech Republic)
Sound of walking through fresh snow, the sound of skateboard wheels going over the pavement, the sound of chalk on a blackboard (Netherlands)
Happy music (Germania)
Chirping birds (U.K.)
Birds chirping (U.S.A.)
My mom scolding, my dad’s two-wheeler. Fight for water, meat market, annoying children in neighborhood (India)
Birds chirping, green garden, private space outdoor (Hong Kong)
Tramway noise, clocks ticking, radio in the morning, parrot singing (Romania)

Please name and/or describe from your childhood’s memory, any particular scent that you recall.

The smell of hay, my mother’s perfume and wood-burning (Australia)
Bread (U.S.A.)
The smell of steel and old cars (Germany)
The smell of freshly cut grass (U.S.A.)
Sea air (Netherlands)
The smell of rain hitting the hot ground, magnolia trees (China)
Honeysuckle (Italy)
Clean air, & smells of the rural areas (Australia)
Roses (France)
Product clean for floor and when my mother cooked (Chile)
The sea (U.K.)
A smell of forest and wood (Czech Republic)
I recall the scent of the flowers of the linden trees that surrounded the apartment building where we lived. It was a very nice perfume present in the air, for almost all the summer and the start of the autumn period (Romania)
The scent of the sea, the scent of fried fish, the scent of apricots, the scent of roses, the scent of wood, the scent of flowers, mainly lilac (Poland)
Ripe strawberries (U.S.A.)
Bad smell from the nearby sewage (Czech Republic)
The smell of apple-pie, the smell of the school gym, the smell of cut grass, the smell of bread from the bakery on the corner (Olanda)
Parents and fresh scents (Germany)
Warm meadow and daisies scent (U.K.)
Pumpkin pie baking (U.S.A.)
My dad had a huge perfume collection can’t recall one. Apart from this, open drainages, meat, damaged safety tanks (India)
Flower scents, especially rose, honeysuckle, acacia flowers, soil smell in spring, the smell of dust after a thunderstorm (Hong Kong)
Winter holidays, the smell of the Christmas tree. Brings only good memories (Romania)


Architectural Journalist

Rethinking The Future


Ana Mirea is a Riba Part II Architectural Assistant and Ph.D. student, based in London. She has graduated from the “Ion Mincu” University of Architecture and Urbanism, and now she undertakes a research based Ph.D. in the field of neuroarchitecture, with a thesis titled The Influence of the Built Environment from Childhood on the Brain.

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