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The Hidden Ways That Architecture Affects How You Feel (bbc.com) 97

"We shape our buildings and afterwards our buildings shape us," mused Winston Churchill in 1943 while considering the repair of the bomb-ravaged House of Commons. From a report: More than 70 years on, he would doubtless be pleased to learn that neuroscientists and psychologists have found plenty of evidence to back him up. We now know, for example, that buildings and cities can affect our mood and well-being, and that specialised cells in the hippocampal region of our brains are attuned to the geometry and arrangement of the spaces we inhabit. Yet urban architects have often paid scant attention to the potential cognitive effects of their creations on a city's inhabitants. The imperative to design something unique and individual tends to override considerations of how it might shape the behaviours of those who will live with it. That could be about to change. "There are some really good [evidence-based] guidelines out there" on how to design user-friendly buildings, says Ruth Dalton, who studies both architecture and cognitive science at Northumbria University in Newcastle. "A lot of architects choose to ignore them. Why is that?"
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The Hidden Ways That Architecture Affects How You Feel

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  • I agree (Score:5, Funny)

    by sunderland56 ( 621843 ) on Friday June 09, 2017 @03:23PM (#54586911)

    The x86 architecture makes me extremely pissed off.

    • I prefer the Intel Itainum architecture personally. It's a bit more consistent for me... ;)

    • I didn't realize quite how stupid x86 architecture was, until I took a course on system370 assembly language. Switching to x86 assembly afterwards was trauma-inducing.

      What do you MEAN I can only use a specific register if I need to do a memory operation?!

  • by Michael Coleman ( 4288707 ) on Friday June 09, 2017 @03:25PM (#54586933)

    It's stunning that someone could write an article like this and not be aware of Christopher Alexander's work on the subject. Highly recommend his book A Pattern Language.

    • by mspohr ( 589790 )

      Yes! "A Pattern Language" is the classic and best reference on architecture. I'm not an architect but have used this for advice on building, remodels, additions for years.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      'A Pattern Language' is great for someone designing/building a house. He also has an introductory book, "The Timeless Way of Building" where he describes why current architecture is a disaster and how to instead design buildings that work for the people who inhabit them.

  • by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) on Friday June 09, 2017 @03:29PM (#54586957) Journal

    If you're going to live in a city, find one with beautiful, functional buildings that respect human scale, that has sidewalks and bike lanes and parks and a nice chunk of water with public access.

    This probably means you'll have to live in a city run by Democrats, but you'll adjust.

    • by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Friday June 09, 2017 @03:51PM (#54587139)

      This probably means you'll have to live in a city run by Democrats, but you'll adjust.

      Here is an complete list of states where the biggest city is not run by Democrats:

      1. Oklahoma

      • This probably means you'll have to live in a city run by Democrats, but you'll adjust.

        Here is an complete list of states where the biggest city is not run by Democrats:

        1. Oklahoma

        You forgot one... but it's really a district, not a state....

        Washington, DC

        PS: Yes, I know the mayor is a democrat...

    • by PPH ( 736903 )

      a city run by Democrats

      But you can't get a building permit.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        a city run by Democrats

        But you can't get a building permit.

        No shit, cities are already built, you can't just build more. You need to talk to the city and work out your plans with them. Your building has to fit into their plans for traffic, pedestrians, water, sewer, electricity, parking, etc. In the big city you have to work with your neighbors, not ignore them.

        • by Ichijo ( 607641 )

          You need to talk to the city and work out your plans with them. Your building has to fit into their plans for traffic, pedestrians, water, sewer, electricity, parking, etc.

          You're describing central planning. We are gradually becoming more and more communist.

          In the big city you have to work with your neighbors, not ignore them.

          If only that were true. You really only need to talk to your neighbors to get zoning variances approved.

          • You're right, Kowloon was truly the optimal urban development.

            =Smidge=

            • by Ichijo ( 607641 )
              I'm thinking something more like this [goo.gl]. The (un-)design is quite pleasing and yet it breaks so many ordinances in my own city that we would not be allowed to build it.
              • Ah yes... a world where we all live in medieval towns turned lake-resorts with no more than 5-6000 inhabitants.
                With all the modern and future technologies and standards of living still available.
                That would be quite pleasing.

                I think that's basically how they live on Star Trek. Speaking of communism and all that...
                All we need is a post-scarcity economy with matter-replicators and warp-capable spaceships.

        • by PPH ( 736903 )

          And then you still can't get a building permit.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Spy Handler ( 822350 )

      This probably means you'll have to live in a city run by Democrats

      You mean like Detroit?

      Quips aside, pretty much every big(ish) city in US is run by Democrats these days... you have to go to rural areas to find non-Dems.

      But please be aware that some of the nicest and most iconic features in our major cities were built decades or centuries ago when the cities weren't completely saturated with Democrat voters.

      Of course many of the most beautiful structures in the world were made eons ago when Democrats or even liberalism didn't exist. Hagia Sophia anyone?

      • by Ichijo ( 607641 )

        Imagine [strongtowns.org] your favorite street in town didn't exist. Could it be built today if the construction had to follow your local rules?

        In the USA, we are no longer allowed to build nice things like we used to. I love some of the old streets in Europe but we can't build them here due to required street widths, setbacks, floor area ratios, parking requirements, height limits, and so on. We've legislated beauty away, unless your vision of beauty involves a lot of asphalt and empty space.

      • But please be aware that some of the nicest and most iconic features in our major cities were built decades or centuries ago when the cities weren't completely saturated with Democrat voters.

        Give three examples, please.

        • Give three examples, please.

          Um... you do realize Democratic party as we know it only came into existence in the 1850's? Before that it was known as Democratic-Republicans (yeah hard to believe Dems and Rs used to be the same party) but the anti-slavery faction of the party split off from the group with the name "Republican" in the mid 1850's. So anything built before 1850 would not have been made by "Democrats".

          Example would be, i dunno, the White House? The US Capitol building? Rotunda at University of Virginia? Lot of famous buildin

          • Um... you do realize Democratic party as we know it only came into existence in the 1850's?

            Actually, it was 1828. And the Democratic Party is the oldest voter-based political party in the world.

            And the Republican Party as we know it didn't come into existence until 1858 (I would say 1960 is more like it), so you don't get to pretend that they had anything to do with the White House, The US Capital Building, or the Rotunda at UofV.

            Central Park in NYC was built just before the Civil War. I dunno what the po

            • Umm... "As we know it"... both parties don't look anything like what they looked pre-Nixon.

              And the obligatory xkcd link. [xkcd.com]

            • Republican Party as we know it didn't come into existence until 1858 (I would say 1960 is more like it), so you don't get to pretend that they had anything to do with the White House, The US Capital Building, or the Rotunda at UofV.

              You have a serious misunderstanding there bro. I never said White House, etc. were built by Republicans, I simply said they were not built by Democrats because the Democratic Party didn't exist back then.

              You are parsing text that reads "not Democrat" and automatically substituting it with "Republican".

              Let me summarize this thread for you, in clear words so you don't get confused:

              THREAD STARTER: Nice buildings are only built in Democrat-run cities.

              ME: Like Detroit? No, many nice things were built before Demo

    • Fun fact: All the cities that the highest crime in the nation have also been run by Democrats for decades.

      (p.s. I'm NOT saying vote Republican.)

      Chicago had a 100% gun ban till recently. They still had record levels... of gun crime. So much for the gun control argument. (Kind of funny how liberals hate prohibition of drugs... but forget the same rules apply to guns. Ban guns and people bring them in... from places where guns aren't banned. Stunning.)

      • by afgam28 ( 48611 )

        Chicago had a 100% gun ban till recently. They still had record levels... of gun crime. So much for the gun control argument. (Kind of funny how liberals hate prohibition of drugs... but forget the same rules apply to guns. Ban guns and people bring them in... from places where guns aren't banned. Stunning.)

        That's like saying "Arizona has strict immigration laws, yet it has high levels of illegal immigration".

        Immigration, gun control, homelessness, etc. are federal-level issues. But that doesn't mean that local and state governments shouldn't do what they can do to try to fix things as much as they can, when they don't see eye-to-eye with the federal government.

    • This probably means you'll have to live in a city run by Democrats, but you'll adjust.

      You must be kidding. Democrats and progressives are in love with futurism, modernism, brutalist architecture, and the dregs of the WPA: grandiose architecture that makes people feel insignificant, lost, and out of place. Democrats and progressives are also in love with urbanization and run pretty much all big cities in the US.

      If you want "to live in a city with beautiful, functional buildings that respect human scale, that

      • If you want "to live in a city with beautiful, functional buildings that respect human scale, that has sidewalks and bike lanes and parks and a nice chunk of water with public access" pick a small-to-mid-size, sleepy American town.

        It sounds like your argument is that if you want to live in a beautiful city, don't live in a city.

        You've never been to Chicago, have you? And do you even know what "brutalist architecture" is, or did you see the word "brutal" in it and assume it was brutal?

        I can believe you vote

        • You've never been to Chicago, have you? And do you even know what "brutalist architecture" is

          Ugly raw concrete blocks; a variant of modernism. Explicitly designed not to appeal to human comfort or scale.

          or did you see the word "brutal" in it and assume it was brutal? I can believe you vote Republican. I assume you believe the buildings with your current President's

          Not everybody is as ignorant or bigoted as you. So, the answer to your questions and assumptions is "no, no, and no".

          It sounds like your argume

          • Ugly raw concrete blocks; a variant of modernism. Explicitly designed not to appeal to human comfort or scale.

            If you want to see brutalist architecture in the US, you have to go to Houston. You won't see brutalism in Chicago or any of the civilized cities.

            • If you want to see brutalist architecture in the US, you have to go to Houston. You won't see brutalism in Chicago or any of the civilized cities.

              There's even a website: http://chicagobrutalism.com/ [chicagobrutalism.com]

              But nowhere did I claim that brutalism was the only architectural sin of progressives.

              Geez, talking to you is like talking to someone with late stage Alzheimers.

              • There's even a website

                There's also a website that says the Earth is 6000 years old.

                http://creation.com/ [creation.com]

                The buildings on the site you linked to are all quite beautiful. One is even a Corbusier

                Here's what brutalism looks like:

                http://www.houstonpress.com/ne... [houstonpress.com]

                • The buildings on the site you linked to are all quite beautiful. One is even a Corbusier

                  Whether you consider them "beautiful" is irrelevant; they are examples of brutalist architecture. You obviously like "brutalist architecture", which was my point to begin with: people like you like buildings like that. People like you also tend to like futurism, modernism, and the crap that the WPA created, and which you also find all over big cities in the US. What those buildings tend not to be are buildings at a "huma

  • by xxxJonBoyxxx ( 565205 ) on Friday June 09, 2017 @03:29PM (#54586959)
    >> lot of architects choose to ignore them. Why is that?

    Same reason software architects ignore principles: cost or time interferes with perfection. Why is this even a question?

    >> says Ruth Dalton, who studies both architecture and cognitive science at Northumbria University

    Ah...now I see. Not much real world experience here, I guess.
    • This sort of thing comes up a lot, actually.

      "You know, I saw an article that pointed out to me that there's actually a lot of interesting study going on in this field. Maybe some of it could help us."
      "So you understand it enough to apply it?"
      "Not especially."
      "Should we fire you and find someone who does?"
      "You know what, it was just a suggestion. Fine, let's just XOR this and difference those and call it a day."

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I'm still going to use Dho-Nha geometry as an inspiration for interior decoration.

  • by Spy Handler ( 822350 ) on Friday June 09, 2017 @03:48PM (#54587107) Homepage Journal

    Not sure if we needed studies to figure this out, but:

    One of Ellard's most consistent findings is that people are strongly affected by building facades. If the facade is complex and interesting, it affects people in a positive way; negatively if it is simple and monotonous. For example, when he walked a group of subjects past the long, smoked-glass frontage of a Whole Foods store in Lower Manhattan, their arousal and mood states took a dive

    I could've told them this, for free. Here in southern Calif, there are strip malls built in the (prosperous) 90's in faux Mediterranean style, with complex gables, fake man-made (but realistic-looking) stonework on the facade, red clay barrel tiles on the roof, curvy wrought-iron railings. I love going to these, makes me feel good to be there.

    As opposed to the strip malls built in the lame 70's... usually with a plain monotonous stucco exterior, all square everything, flat roofs coated with a grey tar-like substance, straight unadorned industrial-looking railings. I believe they call this "modern" style. I dislike going to these places.

    Unfortunately, complex interesting-looking buildings cost more to make than the "modern" style buildings.

    • Unfortunately, complex interesting-looking buildings cost more to make than the "modern" style buildings.

      That is only in some cases.

      In other cases, money is just squandered to make and maintain a fancy ego-building, with absolutely no regards to the people who will actually have to go through it. The San Francisco International Airport is one such example.

  • The imperative to design something unique and individual tends to override [other] considerations. That could be about to change.

    No it won't.

  • My wife and I once debated spending some money on some furniture versus some exterior work on the front of our house. My argument was for the furniture -- sure, the exterior work would make the house much more attractive. But I only see that side when I go in and out the front of the house. I have to sit on the furniture in the house every day.

    So why spend the money and make myself miserable with my old furniture just so the neighbors have a fancy facade to look at?

    I wonder how often that idea comes up.

    • by SeaFox ( 739806 )

      So why spend the money and make myself miserable with my old furniture just so the neighbors have a fancy facade to look at?

      I wonder how often that idea comes up. I've seen amazing buildings on the outside and been totally nonplussed with the interiors. I've been in some buildings that were fugly as hell on the outside, but awesome on the inside.

      Ignoring that there really are people who care too much what their neighbors think of them, Isn't the idea normally to increase the value of the house through the exterior renovations? The furniture is going to give you more comfort, but it wont make your home worth more when you sell it.

      While I imagine you've long since resolved the discussion with your spouse, a compromise could have been interior renovations on the house instead of new furniture. Something you both would enjoy as the inhabitants of the h

      • but it wont make your home worth more when you sell it.

        It may or may not; depends on what the housing marking it like when I need to sell. But until you sell you'll be paying more in property tax for having an improved structure.

      • by swb ( 14022 )

        Curb appeal gets buyers in, but I think the only renovations that actually increase your house's value are kitchens and bathrooms, and in some markets, a basement that has been finished from bare utility to normal living space.

        Otherwise, I think the best bang for your buck with regard to exteriors is just basic maintenance -- keeping up the paint and whatever you have for greenery.

        I think most real estate agents say that too much personalization or technology works against you. It may be great when new, bu

  • > "There are some really good [evidence-based] guidelines out there" on how to design user-friendly buildings, says Ruth Dalton, who studies both architecture and cognitive science at Northumbria University in Newcastle. "A lot of architects choose to ignore them. Why is that?"

    For the same reason anything gets fragmented and unusable. Differentiation. The often vain attempt of a designer (or company) to make something different for the sole purpose of making it easily identifiable as belonging to said

    • I liked the way that Evelyn Waugh took the piss out of the Bauhaus : "The perfect building is a factory - because it is not designed for people" [or similar words AFAIR].

    • A good (and often funny) book to read on this subject is "From Bauhaus to Our House" by Tom Wolfe.

      I really enjoyed James Kunstler's Geography of Nowhere and Home from Nowhere where he talks about the disaster of post-war suburban planning and "undoing the damage of modernism."

      If you can spare 22 minutes, see his TED talk How bad architecture wrecked cities [youtube.com].

  • by acrimonious howard ( 4395607 ) on Friday June 09, 2017 @04:04PM (#54587237)
    The common ground between a physiologist, psychologist, and feng shui expert would be sunlight [healthline.com]. I've felt it most as I entered a tiny bathroom in the middle of a dingy building, and all of a sudden I felt great. I looked everywhere for what could explain my mood change and finally realized the light above me was from a small solar tube [google.com]. It happened a 2nd time in a different building and I've been wondering ever since why they're not everywhere, if the architecture doesn't design it in to begin with.
    • The common ground between a physiologist, psychologist, and feng shui expert would be sunlight

      Each to his own. I hate the fucking sun; it always seems to be in my eyes when I am trying to work. I'd be happy with cloud cover the whole time.

    • I have a small bathroom lined with dark gray tiles. Adding one small skylight made an AMAZING difference. I actually showered in there for almost three months before I realized I hadn't once turned on the light.

  • "We shape our buildings and afterwards our buildings shape us," says the brilliant leader whose nation was immediately thereafter infested with brutalist architecture, ushering in an era of unprecedented globalist collectivism and disregard for civil rights and traditional culture.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Yet urban architects have often paid scant attention to the potential cognitive effects of their creations on a city's inhabitants. The imperative to design something unique and individual tends to override considerations of how it might shape the behaviours of those who will live with it.

    Bullshit.

    Academic institutions worldwide are engaged in the study of urban design and working with counterparts in public and private sectors to apply what they've learned. This has been going on since forever.

    There are also philosophical schools that have observed these phenomena.

    Its neat that neuroscience is being incorporated, but to suggest that they are breaking new ground or answering questions that nobody else thought to ask is a crock.

  • Open spaces feel like glass ceilings. Closed spaces are reserved for people with potential to succeed. So being in an open office space means that you're never going to move up.
  • lands squarely in eyesore territory.
  • ... from other architects.

    All other uses of the building are secondary. If architect awards factored in occupant approval, then buildings would be more useful.

  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feng_shui
  • "There are some really good [evidence-based] guidelines out there" on how to design user-friendly buildings, says Ruth Dalton, who studies both architecture and cognitive science at Northumbria University in Newcastle. "A lot of architects choose to ignore them. Why is that?"

    I know, let's ask our friendly javascript programmers and web designers.

  • by MrL0G1C ( 867445 ) on Saturday June 10, 2017 @04:22AM (#54590481) Journal

    This pigs me off every day.

    So many businesses have at the entrance:
    A set of two doors symmetrical left and right and forwards/backwards, both have pull handles either side, one of the two doors will invariably be locked (Why?) and the other has a 50/50 chance that you can't actually pull the door, you can only push it or the opposite, you can push it but not pull it. FML.
    So you end up needing both hands and the quickest method is to pull one door whilst pushing the other door and if that doesn't work then you reverse what each hand just did.

    Fucking shiity design everywhere because some lazy idiot architect can't pick a functional fucking door and because some idiot manager hasn't told the lazy staff that they should be unlocking both doors not just one.

    Irony: the architects offices having these same bad doors.

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