“Architecture can be found in the telephone and in the Parthenon. How easily could it be at home in our houses! Houses make the street, and the street makes the town, and the town is a personality that takes to itself a soul, which can feel, suffer and wonder. How at home architecture could be in street and town!”
This excerpt from Le Corbusier’s “Towards a New Architecture” talks about the omnipresence of Architecture in our lives. Even though Architecture seems about creating and crafting spaces, it has a wider purpose and implication as a whole. It has been a larger umbrella that gives us a better understanding of not only structures and details but also place, people, surroundings, environment, and culture. Being one of the factors that establish an identity for places, it spans beyond such associations and impacts various concepts that it also revolves around.
Perception and Interpretation
Tangible and Intangible aspects of experience leave a long-lasting impression about things and hence build up a perception. The act and the way of seeing, a further step to comprehend, eventually establishes a direction towards a response. Architecture functions as a lens to perceive cities, their social and economic status, cultural precinct, history, climate, and their setting. Hence builds a narrative of respective places and decides a user’s potential involvement in it.
However, architecture has a unique impact on the perceptions of an Architect and that of a common man. In the case of Architects, characteristics like forms, compositions, scales and proportions, colours, and materials are perceived in a much more conscious manner. Hence no factor is perceived in isolation as it works as a series of arrangements. Whereas the common man has a slightly different version where the perception is driven by functionality, use of space, and also personal past experiences. Various factors like social, cultural, economic, and religious background mould the perception, respectively.
Response: Way of living
People are surrounded by buildings all their lives, spend their time in and around spaces, and naturally tend to develop a way to live and work things out around them. Architectural impact spans beyond the fundamental function and affects human responses, health, mental well-being, the standard of living as well as the scope of growth. Along with the positive influence, architecture can also adversely impact ecosystems and societies, restricting growth and connectivity between social circles.
Public spaces and squares are prominent nodes of social connectivity and networking. According to the experiment “The Happy City” by Charles Montgomery, a writer and urbanist “, Systems, forms of cities influence society and connections as Human happiness correlate with Social connections. Roads, Buildings, neighbourhoods, parks are our emotional infrastructures.” His experiment identifies social infrastructure as a means to establish social interactions and improve human responses.
La Superilla de Sant Antoni was a new public space model in Barcelona that is an intersection between the hustle and leisure. Converting a busy street into a public space was an attempt to create a flexible environment, allowing people to modify or alter it according to their needs. It facilitates the idea of an open public setting in proximity to people. This design worked as a catalyst towards transforming a busy street into a comfortable, flexible public corner and changed the impact of streets on people, making them an active, positive part of their lives.
Housing or Dwellings
A space that people come back to, establish a connection with, spend maximum time after work, an extension to their identities or personalities, is “home”. Housing designs have had a drastic impact on the way people live, both from positive and negative perspectives.
Kanchanjunga apartment by Charles Correa and Kowloon walled city are two self-expressive examples of how architecture is a medium of impact. Kanchanjunga, a highrise located in Mumbai, is a conscious design where units are interlocked in a pattern-making, each feeling like a bungalow. The planning and orientation respond to the Climatic and contextual aspects making it a spacious space to reside in a crowded city. As a user, it functions as a healthy dwelling leaving a positive impact on people. On the other hand, Kowloon walled city, a densely designed and populated high rise in Hong Kong, has affected the living conditions and health. Cramped spaces, with narrow lanes, poorly lit spaces, less exposure to the sun, and less ventilation are a few aspects that take it to an extreme, where it can no more impact lives positively.
Offices or workplaces are the spaces that demand maximum productivity from humans, making them a very significant indoor environment that serves the potential to change the course. With time office spaces have gone through transitions, right from cubicles, cabins, and open floor layouts; there have been many attempts to modify workspaces to create a positive impact on employees. Gensler is a global architecture and design firm that is active in various research programs related to workspace design. According to one of their surveys, “High-quality work environments improve employee health and satisfaction, Healthy workplaces empower workers to make better wellness choices, Functionality, comfort, and adjustability of furniture showed particular relationships to employees’ reported level of energy at work.”
The relationship between architecture and human psychology is an interdependent one, where architecture has psychological impacts and the way humans perceive it determines “good architecture”. The built environment alters the physical movement as well as defines a mental image of space. Many architectural elements like colours, forms, spatial characters, visual chaos, arrangements, aesthetic balance, patterns, and rhythms have a long-lasting and deep effect on the human brain that correlates the space with memories. Respective mental associations create an image in the mind of the user as the first step of receiving. This image or sketch of indoors leaves an impression on our brain in a positive and negative sense.
According to the thesis “ The Psychological Impact of Architectural Design” by Natalie Ricci: “We find buildings that incorporate certain aesthetically pleasing patterns or rhythm to be more beautiful because our brains are conditioned by evolution to associate those patterns with safety, security, well-being, and survival.” While defining the negative sense, “Monochromatic colours, poorly placed windows, an absence of architectural detail, and repetitive styles produced a unique form of sensory deprivation. Not only did this trend result in a lack of intellectual stimulation, it effectively removed every aspect of human touch, creating a cold, unwelcoming environment that lacked the ability to produce a positive physiological response or a sense of well-being.”
In an experiment done by Charles Montgomery, by locating lost tourists in front of facades, people in front of happening facades got a better response than the ones in front of bland facades. Various such experiments traced diverse consequences and the impact of architecture on the human mind.
The act of building changes the movement of cities, people, and largely the environment. As the world adapts to these additions, the immediate local environment goes through changes, eventually affecting the global environment. The process, materials, mechanism, and resources required have a harsh impact on the ecosystem. Little Island Park is an elevated green public space over the Hudson River. This green experience is an addition to the green cover in the busy New York City but has diverse indigenous species of plants that have encouraged biodiversity.
Architecture has been an entity that has evolved, influencing and impacting all the lives around it. With its strong physical presence, architecture has not only been an expression of the past and present but also plays an important role in shaping the future. With its positive and negative impact on society, biodiversity, and ecosystems, it stands as a tool to be wisely used for existing as well as upcoming complexities of the world.
- Le, Corbusier, and Etchells, F. (1986). Towards a New Architecture. New York: Dover Publications.
2.TEDx Talks. (2014). The happy city experiment. [YouTube video]. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7WiQUzOnA5w. [Accessed: 24/ 12/ 2014].
3.Ricci, N. (2018). The Psychological Impact of Architectural Design. CMC Senior Thesesl.https://scholarship.claremont.edu/cmc_theses/1767
4.Gensler Research & Insight (2013). Does a healthy workplace improve the bottom line? [online]. Available at: https://www.gensler.com/gri/toward-a-wellness-based-workplace
- Julean, D. (2016). Why Architects See Things Differently An Architectural Approach On Teaching Space Perception. European Scientific Journal.