“This book comes with a bold promise. I, a stranger, welcome you to the world you live in every day.”

“As you read what follows, what you know and how you think about your world will shift. It will become a different place than it was before you opened it to this page. You will understand your role in it anew.”

Book in Focus: Welcome to Your World, How the built environment shapes our lives by Sarah Williams Goldhagen Sheet1
Welcome to Your World (Source: www.amazon.com)

Spatial attributes and the consequent people’s interaction is a subject of personal interest. I came across this book while doing consecutive research on the socio-cultural dimension of spaces. However, when I picked the book up, I didn’t realize the roller-coaster of thoughts that it would take me through.

“The new paradigm of human cognition begins by framing the relationship of our thoughts to our bodies.” 

A whole section of sociologists, psychologists, neuroscientists, and urban theorists are working on understanding the effects that cities and urban spaces have on people’s minds. There has been an increasing awareness of the fact that the spaces people occupy affect them on several levels. Architecture, often, is perceived as that of the form and that of the function. However, it is the people that make the places and spaces. 

The Author

Book in Focus: Welcome to Your World, How the built environment shapes our lives by Sarah Williams Goldhagen Sheet2
Sarah Williams Goldhagen (Source: www.harpercollins.com)

“Urban Spaces, landscapes, and buildings – even small and modest ones- profoundly influence human lives. They shape our cognitions, emotions, and actions, and even powerfully influence our well- being. They help constitute our very sense of ourselves, our sense of identity.” 

Sarah William Goldhagen is an architectural critic who was associated with Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design for 10 years. She is a journalist and an art historian with an interest in modernism and its practitioners. She has long been striving to write about architecture for the masses and to reach the world audience. Her contribution to architectural writing is indeed notable. 

Why should I read this book?

Book in Focus: Welcome to Your World, How the built environment shapes our lives by Sarah Williams Goldhagen Sheet3
(Source: www.nbcnews.com)
  • This book is written in a simple, easy to understand language.
  • You don’t have to be an architect to understand its contents.
  • It can be read by anyone interested in the relationship between the built environment and people.
  • It cites numerous examples right from real-world urban scenarios to imaginative hypothetical situations to landmark architectural structures to explain the concepts and ideas. 
  • It reflects upon human sensory experiences, emphasizing human perceptions – the cognitive and subconscious.
  • If you are someone who works with virtual reality (VR), this book can give you a glimpse into the effect of volume, color, texture and, so on, on human psychology, perception, and feel.
  • If you are interested in building for people, as against building to envelope people, this book will help you to categorize your processes. 

I am a student, why should I read this book? 

Firstly, for all the above reasons.

Secondly, what is interesting within the text of this book is that it also tries to correlate the processes of learning between Design School or Studio and the real-world scenarios

Since the author has also been associated with academics, the sensitivity of integration and transfer of such narratives into the learning processes of the already overloaded curriculums has been explored. This could be especially important for students who are still trying to grapple with their basics in the huge repository of knowledge in the field. 

A piece of my mind

Whether the text gives a fair analysis based on scientific ideologies or just provokes one to think beyond the fancy photography and technological digitalization of architecture in the current times is an individual’s perception. You may agree to what she has written or may reject her way of rationale, but what is not possible is, to discard her reactions on the most important thing for architects- i.e. people

The book certainly leaves one pondering about several key issues that architects and planners seem to have missed out when designing the milestones in their portfolios. Whatever it is, the book is a beginning to an interesting phase of architectural understanding and pondering in this age of digitalized and glamour architecture. 


An Architecture graduate with a postgraduation in Urban Design and an Educationist by profession. She is on a constant quest for knowledge be it through reading, travel, people, experiences or even just by observing life go by. She believes words are powerful and beautiful and can help heal the world.