Everywhere we go, we are surrounded by built mass. As architects, we have a better observation and understanding of the sensory perception offered by the space. Architecture is the practice of using such built masses to appeal to the user aesthetically as well as sensorily. From childhood to Architecthood, the surrounding architecture has had a profound impact on us and the way we perceive the world. So, what are the different aspects of our life that architecture has influenced?
As an Architecture Student
Architecture school is where we get the first taste of architecture life (Spoiler Alert- It is hard work, but if you enjoy what you do, it is incredibly rewarding) Our preconceived notions about architecture and how an architecture school works rarely match reality. We enter our architecture colleges wide-eyed kids and leave seasoned prospective architects. The gruelling life in architecture school does not quite prepare us for the real world, but it does broaden our perspective greatly. From the first day of architecture college, we are taught to look at things from a different perspective. From “Wow, that building is nice”, we go to “Wow, look at that waffle slab”.
We learn to become more conscientious and observant. Over the course of five years, instead of just looking at flowers and benches in gardens or parks, our attention is drawn to the access, parking, walkways planning, and the way people are interacting with the space.
As a Citizen
“We shape our buildings, and afterwards our buildings shape us” – Winston Churchill.
Built structures have a physiological, sociological, and physical impact on all human beings. Phenomenological theorist, Peter Zumthor, postulates that integration of sensory perception is a function of a built form. Walking through a crowded street with beautiful and active street fronts is pleasant and has been shown to improve the mood of the users. On the contrary, walking on a dingy, narrow road is often a harrowing and unpleasant experience, especially for vulnerable user groups. As Jan Gehl said, only architecture that considers the human scale and interaction is successful architecture.
Time Square, which is now one of the most popular pedestrian plazas in the world, was a chokepoint created by the intersection of Broadway and the north-south running 7th Avenue and constituted a hazard to pedestrians and car traffic before the street closure. Pedestrians were forced to spill into the streets due to narrow, packed sidewalks. The congested vehicle zone has been turned into a vibrant public place in the centre of New York City thanks to the new permanent plaza on Broadway. Due to this, pedestrian injuries have fallen by 40%, traffic accidents have decreased by 15%, and total crime has decreased by 20% in the region.
Vancouver, which constantly ranks as one of the most popular cities to live in, has made a point of ensuring that inhabitants have a good view of the mountains, forest, and ocean to the north and west through its downtown development restrictions. Green space appears to boost health as well as be therapeutic. The visual complexity of the environment acts as a mental soother for the users. Public spaces that encourage social interaction, connect with nature and utilize triangulations are stimulating spaces for everyone.
As a Resident
The spaces we design and construct can have a big impact on how we live, whether by enhancing our mood or performance or making our lives easier. With the correct balance of aesthetics, design, technology, and building methods and materials, good architecture can improve the inhabitants’ quality of life beyond providing the fundamental utility that the end-user expects. Good planning considers the space’s functional requirements and, through a well-thought-out arrangement, aids in the improvement of the activities that will take place there. Furthermore, smart design can improve accessibility by taking into account the demands of persons with limited mobility or vision impairments, enhancing their experience of a building.
Physical factors like daylight and window placement, as well as heating and ventilation, all have a part in increasing the quality of life of building residents. While these elements are frequently discussed in terms of energy consumption and sustainability, providing a comfortable, well-lit atmosphere can have a positive psychological influence on users while simultaneously reducing energy consumption. Incorporating green spaces into the overall design, such as parks and gardens, can also improve the user experience. A growing body of evidence suggests that spending time in nature can boost mental health and improve people’s moods.
Architecture is a tool that can be wielded by anyone, from a common man who is a resident of a building to people who are well versed with the language of design, to shape societies, change perspectives, affect moods and even challenge people to do the unknown.