Storytellers are often surmised to be learned human beings – well experienced and well-traveled, narrating anecdotes, reminiscing events, encounters, and adventures they come across. These narratives engage our minds, instigate imagination, leave a fresh perspective, and challenge how we see the world. They captivate us in a way that we cannot fathom. Our surroundings, built or unbuilt, tend to have a similar impact on us, but seldom do we imagine them to be bearing a story of their own. Most of our lives are spent surrounded by buildings in various forms, furniture, and artificial lighting, and unconsciously, we let them influence our state of mind and emotions.
Like every other form of a narrative – visual, verbal, or pictorial; a spatial or an architectural narrative dictates one’s experience of passing through spaces. It succors the user to experience a built environment beyond just the tangible and the structural aspects. Spaces narrate stories, that outstrip mere plans and elevations. Buildings speak directly through the inscriptions, sculptures, and frescos they carry, at the same time serve a subtle and influential story, which may not be perceived in the same manner by everyone who encounters it. As buildings age, they build upon the story of their existence and alterations, and the amount of care people have bestowed upon them.
A story is an unfolding of events, while architecture is a sequential arrangement of spaces. Both, lucid and edifying experiences. For every built space, the architect has a certain story predetermined for the users, which may not necessarily be how the people perceive it. Confabulation is a skill that is most often overlooked in an Architect. It allows an architect to understand the uncertain sites and situations, thus allowing them to incorporate better resilience and responsiveness in various forms and stages, just as stories seem to enhance our abilities to communicate. Stories, since ages, have always been an effective medium to communicate and question the unknown, and engaging them in the field of architecture invites the possibility to expand its adaptive capacity. Even the architectural drawings and visualizations being precognitions, carry their own curious stories, even before the building is executed.
The Impact of Architecture
Architecture relates to human beings in a very profound way and is indeed central to our experience of being people. It acts as a physical manifestation of civilization. Through everything ranging from the design of a distant vast space to the tiniest of substance finishes, architecture dictates the user’s physical and mental well-being and disposition. Not only does it impact us on a personal level, but also impacts society to a top degree. It represents our entire culture while representing how we see ourselves at the same time.
Architecture psychology has been growing extensively, as a field of research. It deals with the effects of indoor and outdoor spaces on people in emotional, behavioral, and cognitive terms, to promote well-being in these spaces.
The Impact of Architecture on our Psyche
People often seek to manifest nostalgia in building as they are believed to replicate the past. Buildings somehow touch the soul of people living in them. They are accepted and pervaded with emotions and appreciation. It is safe to agree that we find some spaces oddly uncomfortable while the others might instill a sense of calmness as soon as we walk in. We all have that one space, that resonates with us subliminally and always “feels just right”. Spaces and buildings have an emotive dimension to them which inculcates certain feelings that cannot be easily described. Various studies have found that the complexity of a building façade, the impression of color, the design of daylighting, or the accessibility to green spaces play a major role in making people happy and comfortable.
Keeping in mind, the emotional connection between the user and the space, and setting aside a decent amount of time to understand the user, community and environment is important to experience and cherish architecture. The living environment around us acts as a fertile ground for our development. These spaces play a major role in strengthening our self-esteem, while a deficit in the space can cause alienation and restlessness.
The Social Impact of Architecture
Architecture can be perceived as a mirror to society. It represents values, culture, successes, and the downfall of humanity with time. Although Urban designers try time and again, maintaining a consistent language or a style in a city is difficult. People in public spaces, feel connected to a greater social establishment that constitutes the society. Industrialization and Urbanization are factors that have created a sharp divide between private and public living, putting an end to the social narrative that bought people together as a society.
Translating empathy and understanding into spaces helps shape a shared experience and brings people together. Unimaginative concrete buildings that we’re surrounded by, are often associated with stress and tensity. With technology taking over every aspect of our lives, it is vitally important to understand the human relationships to the built spaces. There is a need to step up to the challenge by implementing knowledge and research to come up with architectural solutions that come from understanding spaces and stir up feelings that connect us to the spaces around us.
The Differences in Perception
People are not all the same. The personalities of people vary with the circumstances they are subjected to. The variations are indeed huge, so generalizations should be thought upon carefully. Exploring how we become aware of certain spaces is important to understand our relationship with these spaces. Primarily, our perception of the space around us, which, of course, is more than just a sensation, starts when we view it. Our perceptions are largely dominated by our characteristics.
Architects and designers, during their course of study, are subjected to various historic buildings and works of other Architects. They are always inevitably influenced by their education and mostly allow it to take over a large chunk of their perception, unlike non-designers who are familiar only with the typical buildings in their surroundings. This brings in the challenge of balancing their intention and perception. What appears to be a grand ensemble of irregular shapes and new techniques to architects, may often leave a common viewer in a confused state. Differences can also be found in terms of geographical locations. What is familiar to a person residing in a particular location may be atypical in another.
Architecture is a crafty speech that speaks to our senses, and like any other narrative, it is perceived differently and always evades prediction.
Lawson, B. (2001). The Language of Space. Oxford: Architectural Press.
Emmons, P., Feuerstein, M., Dayer, Carolina (2017). Confabulations: Storytelling in Architecture. Oxon: Ashgate.
Ferren, B. (1999) Talking Back to the Machine. New York: Springer.
Shah, V. (2012). The Role of Architecture in Humanity’s story. Thought economics.
Available at: https://thoughteconomics.com/the-role-of-architecture-in-humanitys-story [Accessed: 4 August 2021].
- Online sources
Vangelatos, G (2019). How Does Architecture Impact Society? A High-Level Look. [online]. (Last updated 18 October 2019). Available at: https://hmcarchitects.com/news/how-does-architecture-impact-society-a-high-level-look-2019-10-18/ [Accessed date: 3 August 2020].
Estrella, A (2018). How Architecture Affects Our Quality of Life. [online]. (Last updated: 24 July 2019). Available at: https://www.jlarchs.com/how-architecture-affects-our-quality-of-life/ [Accessed date: 3 August 2020].
- Images/visual mediums
Citations for YouTube videos:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=smYhdEr-YO8 [Accessed 4 August 2020].
Citations for images/photographs – Print or Online:
Dru, J. (1995). Imperceptible. [Photograph].
Baan, I. (2011). Torre David. [Photograph]
Herve, L. (1995). High Court of Justice, Chandigarh. [Photograph]
Haynes, T (2020). Narrative Architecture. [Image]
.5. Other source types
Citations for interviews:
Shah, V. and Thorne, M., Rogers, R., Mostafavi, M. (2012). The Role of Architecture in Humanity’s Story. Salford: Thought Economics