Rapoport’s work has primarily focused on the function of cultural variables, cross-cultural research, and theory building and synthesis. Amos Rapoport is an Australian architect and one of the pioneers of the new field of Environment-Behavior Studies. His six books are House Form and Culture, 1969; Human Aspects of Urban Form, 1977; The Meaning of the Built Environment, 1982; History and Precedent in Environmental Design, 1990; Culture, Architecture, and Design, 2005; Thirty-three papers in Environment-Behavior Research, 1995. His books and many other publications have been translated into several languages. 

Article in Focus: On the relation between Culture and Environment by Amos Rapoport - Sheet1
Amos Rapoport on culture & environment ©Banamid

Amos Rapoport has written several articles within the broader context of environment behaviour relations (EBR). Amos Rapoport synthesises his collection of work on culture-environment links in this article on the relationship between culture and environment. This integration both reveals and illustrates many previously overlooked links. These links are conveyed more succinctly so that readers can understand and apply them more efficiently. Because the article is about his work, it is written in the form of an essay with references to a list of additional readings that he says is a complete bibliography of his work specifically on the subject of the article.

Rapoport maintains that the influence of culture may be seen in the context of other features of this collection of links when using the environment behaviour relations (EBR) method. As a result, although culture is a crucial and inescapable aspect, it is not claimed to be the sole significant consideration. The intention is to make the concepts and relationships between them more operational so that they can be used in both design and analysis.

Rapoport goes on to stress how important it is to make the subject more tangible, particular, and manageable. He compares the ambiguity to the weather: “Everyone complains about it, but no one does anything about it,” he says, “mostly because they don’t know how.” Simultaneously, the reading provides a variety of instances for the discussion. They’ve been generalised to apply to all cultures, types of environments, and other factors.

Article in Focus: On the relation between Culture and Environment by Amos Rapoport - Sheet2
House Form and Culture ©Amos Rapoport

Culture-environment relations have been one of the most innovative and exciting areas of environmental behaviour research (EBS). These issues are frequently discussed at the Environmental Design Research Association’s meetings (EDRA). Aside from it, there are two other series of conferences dedicated to this topic. According to Amos Rapoport, this is the situation in other fields where the function and consequences of culture, which were previously unrecognised, overlooked or underestimated, have gained traction.

Culture and cultural concepts are also applied in organisations, such as an in-office study on “corporate culture,” and professions, such as architecture. Rapoport also believes that these advancements are attributable to the importance of culture’s inextricable and vital involvement in all areas of human behaviour, cognition, affect, preference, and meaning. The breadth and depth of that impact are observational questions, regardless of how central it is.

According to Rapoport, the primacy of culture entails an apparent paradox. Culture is often viewed as the distinguishing characteristic of humans, defining the Homo Sapiens Sapiens. Culture is an inextricable part of any human phenomena, including how individuals form, use, and interact with their surroundings. Having culture, on the other hand, separates a single biological species into groupings that are so dissimilar that they might be considered “pseudo-species.”

Rapoport argues that group variability is an important property of people and is crucial to understanding EBR and correctly developed design. Culture is what distinguishes these groups.

Other key design consequences include the fact that this involves a variety of user groups, each with its own set of desires. This includes their interpretations of environmental aspects and preferences and conceptions of environmental quality, ideals, and schemata. Furthermore, it applies to all users, as opposed to designers, who are a very specific, highly idiosyncratic group with little in common with the majority of users. It’s worth noting that the nature of relevant groups is a very under-researched subject.

Amos Rapoport argues that children, the elderly, the urban poor in third world countries, the disabled, single parents and other special user groups encountered in literature may not be useful or appropriate. In some ways “culture” is more relevant, cross-cutting the characteristics of such groups. 

Culture, Architecture and Design ©Amos Rapoport

The article’s overview is a simple approach to Culture and EBS, with a more detailed questionnaire and argumentation, alongside operationalizing the concept of culture, as it is largely useless and why. It is followed by a context-specific definition of the term environment, as well as the conceptualization of three complementary concepts: the environment as a cultural landscape, the environment as the organisation of space, time, meaning, and communications, and the environment as a system of settings within which systems of activities take place.

Rapoport discusses the variety of settings, as well as the relationship between activity systems and their surroundings. He talks about a few areas of lifestyle that have to do with the built environment. The article’s third and final facet or expression on culture is social variables and environment. This essay presents each intriguing component and its relationship in the most concise and forthright manner possible.

The centrality of culture in environmental design is argued in this article, as well as the difficulty, if not impossibility, of utilising it at that level of generality. Rapoport proposes a new way of thinking about “culture” and “environment,” as well as strategies to make these notions operational and hence usable.

Amos Rapoport closes by recommending two things: first, if the argument makes sense, follow up on the various points in the recommended reading list. Second, apply the proposed technique to a variety of specific examples, either from the readings or from real-life situations that are relevant to or interesting to the readers. Rapoport’s outline can only become better than what it is in these ways. However, presenting it is the first and most essential step.


  1. [online] Available at: <https://www.researchgate.net/publication/26503566_Some_Further_Thoughts_on_Culture_and_Environment> [Accessed 2 September 2021].

       Article: On the relation between Culture and Environment by Amos Rapoport


Spoorthi Nagaraj is a freshly graduated architect who is intrigued about urban studies and sociology. She is an architect by the day and a writer by the night. Her passion towards equity, resilience and sustenance is what flows through the content she writes.

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