Do buildings touch our souls? Does the built environment affect our senses? The answer to this question is very simple. Yes! As every element of the built environment has its unique nature, which impacts human behaviour. The basic elements of design like line, plane, volume, surface, mass, material, and structure contribute to physical and visual appearance, which connects with human emotions. The purpose of architecture is to provide comfort to its users through an understanding of environmental psychology which has been neglected throughout the modern era. First, before getting more details about the impact of architecture on human behaviour, it is necessary to understand the meaning of environmental psychology. Environmental Psychology is the study of the interrelation of humans with their environment. It has long-term implications like city planning and environmental sustainability.
So, here the question arises, why is it necessary to understand and design according to environmental psychology?
The built forms, elements, and functions have an impact on every individual personality, mind, and health. Human exchange influences the surroundings in which they live and spend most of their time. Architecture can have negative effects on human behaviour, such as monotonous design features can lead to boredom or eventually depression; similarly, a complex design can create happiness. No one wants to live in a dead zone or where there is no vibe of joyfulness. As Zaha Hadid stated –” Architecture should be able to excite you, calm you, and make you think, do the spaces around you have a conservation with you or do you enter a space, and it affects your mood.”
Our history of architecture is full of exemplary monuments and buildings depicting environmental psychology. Like Suzhou, the Traditional Garden of China is made up of natural elements which feel pleasant, happy, and relaxed, whereas temple architecture is full of symmetry and elegance, which makes it feel stable and peaceful. Each architectural space has its importance of emotion, cultural touch, and well-being. In the first century BC, Vitruvius also defined architecture on three basic factors; Human Behavior, Technology, and Aesthetics.
Let’s understand a few components of environmental psychology in the built environment that help to create an ideal space for humans.
An ideal space relies on three pillars: Unity, the sense of connection between humans and the environment within the space and its function; Legibility: the easy accessibility of every user without getting lost in the space and Mystery: the curiosity to acquire more knowledge about the environment. All these factors are incorporated by understanding the user’s perception and needs as well as by not neglecting environmental sustainability needs. All the pillars can be attained by the few following components:
- Thermal comfort/Climate Responsive Design
Sick Building Syndrome is the most common problem in humans nowadays because of an unpleasant environment/space. Thermal comfort or adapting climate responsive design is the most crucial component to mitigate sick building syndromes such as stress, depression, skin diseases, and many more as we spend all of our time in different functional spaces either outside or inside.
Climate responsive design is not only beneficial for human health and well-being, but it also enhances environmental sustainability because of a reduction in energy consumption by adapting thermal strategies in the design according to the climate. Architects/designers and urban planners should take responsibility for designing spaces that enhance users’ comfort and consider psychological principles to deliver thermal comfort and sustainable outcomes.
- Green Spaces
According to the research, access to nature has been found to improve sleep, increase productivity, reduce stress and anxiety, increase happiness and reduce negative emotions, promote positive social interactions and generate a sense of life. The incorporation of green spaces in the living space should be considered by architects as it seems that green spaces have a great role in psychological impacts.
- Natural Lighting
Natural lighting creates a sense of place and emotions. It is one of the most important aspects of architecture for its impact on human wellbeing, energy conservation, and enriching the spaces. Lack of natural light makes one feel isolated and claustrophobic, leading to depression and stress.
Colour is an important design element as it has a high emotional impact. It reflects our relationship with space. Research proved that colours could create physical and unstable responses such as raising/lowering blood pressure, heartbeat, sweating, respiratory system, and even brain wave patterns.
There are many more components like building materials, furniture etc., that aid in human behaviour.
Nobody wants to live in an unpleasant environment that evokes bad memories and feelings. In the world of the urbanized and technological era, the built environment sector has lost focus on environmental psychology. Innovation with human psychological needs can create spaces that appeal to a positive and sustainable environment. An architect or designer can change the world while influencing human behaviour with his design. The built environment sector should adapt to environmental psychology in the changing era of technology. Adapting environmental psychology is a win-win strategy to fulfil human perception and sustainable development as well.
- ResearchGate. (n.d.). (PDF) The Impact of the Built Environment on Human Behaviors. [online] Available at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/322833804_The_Impact_of_built_Environment_on_human_Behaviors.
- Trivedi, A. (2022). Psychology Of Architecture: Impact Of Spaces On Our Behavioral And Emotional Patterns | The Decor Journal India. [online] Available at: https://www.thedecorjournalindia.com/architecture-eye/psychology-of-architecture-impact-of-spaces-on-our-behavioral-and-emotional-patterns.