We are inhabitants of our surroundings, and it is no secret that where we live affects how we live. Come to think about it, not only are we the inhabitants, but also the creators. We give life to our designs so that people can lead their desired lives in them. Being an architect isn’t therefore only a mere choice, but a consequential responsibility, a lifetime commitment. And the consequence of this choice is the impact it has on its users. The same way medicine is a science that is accountable for healing the body and the mind, and music is an art that is accountable for pleasing the ear and easing the heart, architecture is a science and an art that is somehow charged with both, if not more.

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Perception and Visual Impact

Taking as an example the famous Farnsworth House, by Mies van der Rohe, this particular architecture can be subject to two different opinions and points of view. Built-in 1951, the project appears as an envelope of glass and steel in the middle of nature, an open minimalistic pavilion. While someone might feel its transparency as invading, thus leading to a lack of privacy and therefore to discomfort, someone else might associate it with a deep and resilient connection with the surroundings, thus achieving the architect’s goal to bring together humanity, architecture, and nature. Moreover, a random visitor might feel unfazed and indifferent towards the “box of glass standing in the middle of nature” as he may think of. However, an architect with a keen eye for details and meanings would immediately perceive van der Rohe’s desires of simplicity and elegance, through an architecture that would not trouble the natural place and not take away its importance. This showcases the various ways a simple project such as Farnsworth House can be looked at in different ways and generate different emotions.

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Farnsworth House, a simple complexity_©farnsworthhouse.org

Mental Health and Emotional Impact

What does being human mean if not having a certain level of sensibility to who surrounds us and what surrounds us? Each one of us, within our perspective, knows how frequenting certain people can affect the way we think, and the way we feel. It has come to reason as well how the places we live in, whether permanently or temporarily, have an impact on the way we lead our lives, the way we interact and socialize, the way we get work done. 

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On a theoretical level, architecture is generating a space that will serve its users and will accommodate their needs. This implies that the inhabitants are the ones who will control this space they will adopt. On a deeper level and thinking, it is the architecture that will determine how people will interact and live within the space. It may sound crazy to think that something a person creates (a reference to the architect) will end up dictating how another person will behave and feel. On a bigger scale, it can end up controlling a whole population, a whole city, or even a whole country’s way of living.

A Small Impact […]

Imagine living in a dense city. Waking up to the buzzing sound of the engines beneath your window feels indeed like a pretty stressful way to start up your brain. Now imagine still living in this same city, your room however facing the opposite side, and waking up to the sunlight bursting through the glass; seems like a better and healthier way to start the day, doesn’t it? This is the role of an architect. Now picture yourself sitting at your desk to start your work. Wouldn’t a window with a nice outdoor view and a nice breeze lighten your mood and reduce your level of stress? Wouldn’t it then affect your productivity, your energy, and even your performance? It is more appealing than studying in an enclosed space between 4 dull walls. This is also the role of an architect.

[…] That Turns Into a Bigger Impact

When architecture intervenes with the way you start your day and the way your work gets done, it can be considered that architecture is intervening in the same way with thousands and millions of people. It is then pretty easy to assume that architecture intervenes in the way the world itself works and evolves. On average, people spend 93% of their time indoors. They naturally adapt to their surroundings and become a mirror of their environment. It is therefore only natural for the spaces they inhabit to have a huge impact on their behavior, and thus their mental health. As impactful as the architecture of private spaces is, knowing the right way to design public spaces, from cafes to shops to workplaces to parks is essential. The success of public space as such is mostly determined by the way the users interact in it. See if a space succeeds in pulling people together, terminating what is called “social stress” (lack of social bonding and cohesion in neighborhoods specifically), and inviting them to socialize without having to think about it twice, it wins.

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Park Vert, Proposition for the design of York Park_©Agency Landscape, Planning and David Rubin Land Collective

Heritage and Physical Impact

Ever since the beginning of time, architecture was and has always been present. Just like everything else, it has also been subject to an outstanding evolution. We have seen it all, from Vernacular Architecture to Classical, Ancient Roman, Greek, Victorian, Gothic revival, Bauhaus, Brutalist, Modern, High-Rise and the list goes on and on… This historical thread of architecture holds a big and dear value. And to this day, the goal has been to preserve this history of architecture, a history that shapes our various heritages. Every architecture, and every way of design, shapes the identity and the uniqueness of each country and continent. It also reflects the traditions and the way of living of different populations. What makes the world beautiful if not for the diversity that lays within?

For instance, it is quite important to understand our architectural roots, for it depicts the way our own used to create and live out of these creations. Admiring how every stone is piled upon the other, the resilience, the strength, and the marks that time had left on these structures cannot but touch the heart and give us the utmost feeling of belonging.

Traditional Lebanese House_©original photography by Angela Hanna

 

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Author

Angela Hanna is a senior architecture student at the university of USEK, Lebanon. Having always been passionate about reading, she states that words have a wicked and powerful way to change our perception and therefore our reality. She believes that through the creation of spaces, we create emotions and enhance mindsets, thus which will work in favor of building a better world.

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