Architecture is defined as the ‘third skin’ of humans (after the skin and the clothes). The architectural environment, where the major life activities take place, has a dominant and permanent influence on humans. In turn, humans, as determinants of their surroundings, have a greater impact on the built environment. The vital role of architects is to understand this dynamic and mutual relationship between the buildings and their users to shape the built environment. This people-place relationship is mediated through three main factors: Intent, Perception, and Narrative.


The interaction between the people and architecture is defined by intent. Building with intention will intend to serve the intent. Architecture often succeeds in imposing its intent by setting powerful limitations on its users (Palti, 2017). Places designed with an intent specific to their users have shown positive psychological benefits. For example, the fountain at the Trafalgar square is installed to impede large crowds from gathering as a way to discourage demonstrations. So protests are often confined with the streets of White Hall and the limited space outside Parliament. On the other hand, Rabin Square at Tel Aviv was intentionally designed to encourage gatherings, acting as an enabler of protests. 

Intent, Perception, and Narrative in Architecture - Sheet1
Architecture as limiter or enabler. Left: Trafalgar Square; Right: Rabin Square_ ©Charles D P Miller, Rabiarebs

The intent is the dialogue between the building and the users. It is whether the intent of both aligns or not which defines the dynamics of the dialogue (Palti, 2017). An understanding of how the design is transformed to materiality embedded with its intent should inform how we shape buildings, and simultaneously how they shape us.

Perception | Narrative in Architecture

Whether we like a place or not depends on the way we perceive a space and its design elements. The illumination in a building, color, materials, or a place similar to the previous ambiance strongly influences the perception of a space.  For instance, a prisoner cannot have bright and vibrant colors. At the same time, an old age home should have soothing colors, a healing garden, gathering spaces, private rooms, for healthy well-being. So, it is most important to keep the psychological needs of a person regarding a vicinity in mind while designing a space.

Andreas Meyer-Lindenberg has shown that urban living can change brain biology in some people. (Haddad et al., 2014). One of the most consistent findings of Ellard is that facades that are complex and interesting have a positive impact on people in an urban environment, whereas plain, monotonous facades affect negatively. An architect can control human behavior with his design by understanding the way that a building’s design can influence a person’s behavior, thus modifying the individual’s mood and perception, whether the environment is natural or man-made (Davis,2021). Understanding how the environment affects people could enable the design and construction of spaces that can influence people’s behavior.

Intent, Perception, and Narrative in Architecture - Sheet2
Narrative in Architecture-Monotonous and a dynamic facade Left- United nations Secretariat Building; Right- AlBahrs Tower _©John.W.Cahill; Christian Richters


Cities and places are social networks – and streets, spaces, parks, buildings are social media. To understand and design spaces and streets, it is more important to frame the networks and connections- the activities, behavior, culture, etc., 

Bill Hillier says, “When we think of a particular kind of building, we are not only conscious of an image of an object but at the same time of the complex of spatial relations that such a building entails.”(Letesson, 2010). For example, when we enter a library, we recognize the setting as the library(Lawson, 2001). Along with that setting comes a series of social norms of being calm, composed, and organized. Even though we may never have been to this particular library before, we know how to behave in a library. The spatial and social patterns that are created through the spaces often correspond to the unconscious principles that govern them. Through these unconscious principles, the library is given a ‘Spatial narrative’ of the types of spaces it has, the way they are connected and sequenced, what activities take place together in them, and which ones have to be separated. If architecture communicates ‘intentions’ through the control and development of perceived relationships at multiple levels within space, its primary vehicle to achieve this is through defining the Spatial experience( the narrative). 

Intent, Perception, and Narrative in Architecture - Sheet3
Narrative in Architecture-Boston Library_©Greg Cook

Architect – The Bridge between Buildings and the Users | Narrative in Architecture

If you are an architect and you design a space, as Carl Buechner states, people will forget what materials you used, they will forget what the space looked like, but they will never forget how you made them feel. (Mitrovic, 2017). Architects are mediators between the buildings and their users. The role of positive theory for the design professions is framing the right intent, to develop the perception of users, in a particular narrative

 “What architects create is a potential environment for human behavior; what a person uses and appreciates is his or her effective environment.” (Lang, 1987). Architects are not often appreciated for their architectural style or language. Rather, an architect should enhance his ability to determine ‘what will be an effective environment’ for the people. 


  1. Palti, I., 2017. CCD | To Shape and Be Shaped. [online] Available at: <>
  2. Letesson, Q., 2010. From building to architecture: The rise of configurational thinking in Bronze Age Crete. [online] Available at: <
  3. Lawson, B., 2001. The language of space. 1st ed. MA: Reed Educational and Professional Publishing Ltd.
  4. Haddad, L., Schafer, A., Streit, F., Lederbogen, F., Grimm, O., Wust, S., Deuschle, M., Kirsch, P., Tost, H. and Meyer-Lindenberg, A., 2014. Brain Structure Correlates of Urban Upbringing, an Environmental Risk Factor for Schizophrenia.
  5. Gupta, A., 2021. Architecture and Human Behavior Does Design Affect Our Senses. [online] Available at: <
  6. Augustin, S., 2017. CCD | Designing for Humans: The Essentials. [online] Available at: <
  7. [online] Available at: <>
  8. Mitrovic, M., 2017. CCD | What Can Neuroscience Teach Us About Architecture?. [online] Available at: <

Rethinking The Future (RTF) is a Global Platform for Architecture and Design. RTF through more than 100 countries around the world provides an interactive platform of highest standard acknowledging the projects among creative and influential industry professionals.