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“Goldilocks went upstairs, where she found three beds. There was a great big bed, a middle-sized bed, and a little bed. She was feeling very tired, so she climbed into the great big bed. The great big bed was too hard. So, she tried the middle-sized bed, but it was too soft. Finally, she climbed into the little bed. It felt just right, all cozy and warm. In no time at all, Goldilocks fell fast asleep” (Southey, 2003).

Goldilocks is a story that teaches little kids about treating others’ homes and property with care. But that is not the reason why this story has survived generation after generation. There is an underlying topic in Goldilocks that makes it easy to relate to her perpetual mishandling of the Bear’s possessions: a desire to find something that is “just right”. Not every space can be distilled into such simple verbiage as Goldilocks uses to describe the Bear’s beds – ie “hard”, “soft”, “good”, and “bad” – yet people still seek that perception of perfection. While this story relates this desire to a tangible bed, the space around us provides very similar perceptual input that the mind is constantly trying to compute. The story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, in the most primitive sense, demonstrates the role the built environment has on our choices, our decisions, and, ultimately, our outcomes.

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Nature vs. Nurture

The Nature vs. Nurture debate argues whether genetics or the environment has the largest perceived role in the personality of an individual. Typically left for the world of psychology, architects rarely bother themselves with the psychosis of a person. Why does it truly matter how a person forms their identity when all an architect truly needs to bother themselves with is the connectivity between the current individual and the immediate space?

The failure to recognize how crucial the formation of identity is to perceptual comprehension results in bland, uninspiring architecture. An architect should not concern themselves with the debate on Nature vs. Nurture, not because it does not impact the built world, but because an architect needs to design for genetically and environmentally influenced behavior. It is not a question of one or the other, but both.

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“Nature” refers to how genetic make-up factors into a child’s development. This could range from how the brain of a child is formed to the color of their eyes. A person with naturally lighter eye color tends to have a higher sensitivity to light. Therefore, windows with less glare protection or lighter painted walls that reflect the sun can be more jarring, and, ultimately, less appealing. It also means that those with lighter eye colors can see clearer in darker rooms. As a result, it might be natural to make assumptions about the types of spaces people with different eye colors may or may not prefer.

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How a child is raised, the experiences they have, and any other environmental factors are ways nurturing impacts an individual’s personality. In the world of architecture, “to see or to be seen” refers to the different opportunities an environment can provide a person: to either be front and center or to act more as a spectator off to the side. It has been proven those with more extroverted tendencies will walk directly through space, whereas a more introverted person will walk closer to the edges of a space.

In analyzing both natural and nurtural influences, it is presumption to assume these observations apply to every experience and environment, yet, these observations are crucial ideologies to understand when dealing with spatial formation. These observations are used to formulate spaces that draw on certain feelings, emotions, and perceptions. Similarly to Goldilocks, architecture can be refined into simple observations, such as good or bad, light or dark, small or big. What truly e changes about a space, is the person perceiving it.

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Emotional or Uncomfortable

The 9/11 Memorial Museum by Davis Brody Bond is an underground museum that moves pedestrians along a ribboned path used to mimic the removal of debris after the attack. To refine the architectural experience, the museum is a dark space consisting of sharp angles and claustrophobic corners. According to most, this description would result in a bad consensus and the museum would be determined an unenjoyable space. However, this museum averages 9,000 visitors from across the world on a slow day. How can that be?

It all comes down to intention, experience, and perception. 9/11 is one of the most tragic events in US history. In the design of its memorializing museum, Davis Brody Bond had every intention of bringing these emotions to the surface and allowing spaces for people to feel. When people visit this museum, there is at least an understanding of what happened, and, therefore, people are prepared to experience something laced with tragedy.

Now, with the understanding of intention and expected experience, these spaces are no longer dark, sharp, and claustrophobic. Instead, the darkness allows for undivided attention; the sharp angles provide pause between bouts of emotion; and the claustrophobic spaces become quiet, secluded rooms to feel without vulnerably being exposed. 

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Architects Role

Architecture, when boiled down to its primitive roots, has always been about the need for shelter to maximize survival. As technology has increased, architecture can become more than just protection. However, the mind’s innate function still is to quickly rationalize our perceptions of the space around us to determine the best path forward toward survival. This comes to fruition in the story of Goldilocks, as she decides which bed – the little bed – would be most comfortable to result in the best sleep. If she was hoping to stay awake, she most likely would have decided to rest in a less comfortable bed.

Every person, due to their nature and nurture, has a unique perception of our built world. For an architect, designing is not just about creating an environment that suits their own needs, but about creating a space that can properly satisfy all different needs of all different types of people. Like the 9/11 Museum, it is about considering the intention of the task, defining the experience that will be portrayed, and creating something that brings people together through some of the most innate feelings and emotions.

There is a beauty in space, where, amidst all differences, people can come together and find a place that is “just right”.

References List:

ArchDaily. (2014). 9/11 Memorial Museum / Davis Brody Bond. [online] Available at:

Cherry, K. (2022). The Age Old Debate of Nature vs. Nurture. [online] Verywell Mind. Available at:

Ewing, J. (n.d.). 9/11 Memorial. Available at:

Gardiner, R. (n.d.). School of Design & Environment. Available at:

Lang, A. (1892). The Story of the Three Bears.

Lee, R. (2024). Nature V Nurture. [Photography] Available at:

Milan Eye Center. (n.d.). Resource Center: Guides, Tips, and More. [online] Available at:

Plummer, H. (2021). White Light. Available at:

SeARCH (2023). YOURTOPIA. Available at:

Southey, R. (2003). Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Auburn, Vic.: Mimosa Shortland.


Currently pursuing a Bachelor of Architecture and Masters of Landscape Architecture, Margaret plans to use her dual education to bridge the gap between fields and break down barriers in design practice. With a love for knowledge, journalism provides her an opportunity to both learn and teach.