When walking in a park, to follow the path of the sidewalk is common knowledge. Walking on the grass or anywhere other than the sidewalk seems wrong since it is the intended path that is paved for people to walk on. However, why do people follow the sidewalks? There is no law that forces anybody to and yet, it is natural to just follow it because of its architectural design. Human behavior can be influenced by many things such as where an individual grew up or the people that the individual is surrounded by. However, architectural design is what an individual constantly sees throughout their lifetime. Without it, progression in culture and society would decline. Even though architectural design is a physical property made by people, it physically, cognitively, and spiritually affects everybody in the world. The influence on architecture and culture have an effect on how people perceive things visually. Robert Laws, who was a Scottish missionary, went to Malawi, Africa in the late 1800s to determine the theory of how visual perception can be influenced by architecture and culture. When showing a picture of people gathered around with an outline of three lines behind them and a square image above a lady’s head with something in the square to Westerners and Africans, the answers of what they saw were completely different. The Westerners saw people who were indoors assuming that the three lines were a wall and the square image with something in it was a window with a plant. However, the Africans saw a woman holding the square on top of her head like a box and the three lines being a tree. This proves how the architecture surrounding the environment influences the way people think. The Westerners had seen buildings every day and knew what the inside of a building looked like and related it back to the picture. But since Africans back then did not live in structures that had walls and were outside most of their lives, they saw a woman holding a box over her head and a tree behind the group of people. They were thinking about the outside rather than the inside. Many places that are in a person’s everyday life are designed with very little thought. A workplace that contains cubicles are the worst areas to do work. The walls are primarily bland with low ceilings and workers are placed in congested tiny boxes where the work is done. How efficient can the work be when the workers are constantly stressed about space, noise, privacy, lighting, air quality, color, etc.? When taking a survey of the factors previously mentioned and some additional factors, “workers in cubicles with high partitions were the most miserable, reporting the lowest rates of satisfaction in 13 out of those 15 factors.” (Carmichael). This can also be compared to how classrooms look in educational systems. A typical high school would have the same types of problems as cubicles in workplaces. Therefore, it isn’t surprising that a student’s ability to learn decreases because of the lack of thoughtful architectural design. A study showed that when upon switching parameters in classrooms, it “found that classroom design could be attributed to a 25% impact, positive or negative, on a student’s progress over the course of an academic year” (Vanhemert). Why does architectural design affect human behavior the way it does? It has to do with something called architectural determinism where the environment/architecture affects human behavior giving the idea that the environment may control the way people behave. Ninety percent of a person’s life has been inside a building, so being influenced by the surrounding area is expected. People even adapt to their own surroundings by altering the environment the way that they like it. When upon altering it, however, nature amongst everything is chosen as decoration. Even though ninety percent of a person’s life is spent indoors, ninety-nine percent of humanity’s lifetime was spent outdoors. That, in turn, makes humans have this distinctive tendency to associate with nature and other life forms such as animals. Even when looking at a tree, a person’s cognitive ability increases and their stress decreases. This is called Biophilia. It is shown in many ways how biophilic additions to architectural designs affect a person’s behavior. In Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, they have a brain surgery recovery suite and when patients get out of brain surgery, they lie on their bed for the first twenty-four hours looking at the nurse’s station. Then, once twenty-four hours go by, the bed turns, and the patient is now looking at a garden. This not only improved the recovery rates of patients, but also improved the patients’ health and performance of the hospital (Wyatt). One change in architectural design had the ability to heal people. A clear advocate that believes that architecture can create healing is an architect named Michael Murphy. He is someone that went to Africa and did multiple projects there, one being the reconstruction of a hospital. He expresses in his ted talk that the hallways of a particular hospital had made people sicker. To fix this problem, he made the hallway external which provided fresh air, the proper ventilation for people inside and out, and gave each patient a window with a view of nature. This simple change in architectural design radically altered the people’s ability to heal mentally and physically. If people’s senses are not stimulated by external or internal stimuli, they can suffer psychological distress and even unpleasant hallucinations, which is called sensory deprivation. It has been studied that when people use sensory deprivation tanks, they experienced hallucinations. This can be compared to a submarine because navy sailors do not have the proper change in external and internal stimuli. When the navy sailors are in the submarine for several days or months it can induce hallucinations and even decrease the senses. For example, when the navy sailors would exit the submarine, they can only see short distances temporarily because they have been deprived of their senses. This can also be related to the way buildings use artificial light. The same lighting for many hours can create problems in sleep habits and emotional health. When looking at natural lighting, throughout the day the sun is not the same color. It changes giving blue light at noon and golden light in the evening. This golden light produces melatonin that helps a person sleep, but if they are under artificial light, they are deprived from this production of melatonin. They cannot sleep well accumulating problems that could potentially create emotional health problems as well. Scientists have found that the brain requires something called Alliesthesia which is the stimulation of the senses oscillating throughout the day. Even with the perfect stimulation, there needs to be a variance from it because the same thing all day long is bad for the person (Behling). That is why poor architectural design can produce multiple problems if not thought out properly. Often times architects do not seriously consider the environment or location. If you take one look at my house, you know why. I live next to an apartment complex where they face southeast of where my windows are. Since my windows are faced northwest, I would always have my blinds open because I rarely see the sun except for when it is about to set. However, the apartment that has the windows facing southwest of me always has their blinds closed due to them getting direct sunlight throughout the day. This is an example of how not only architectural design affects our behavior but shows how poorly thought out it can be. Architectural design influences human behavior and culture influences architectural design. In America, mass production is what is valued. Creating buildings as fast as possible is the main purpose in today’s culture. If one takes a look at the suburbs, every house is practically identical to the next with so many in one area. These buildings are being made not for its location or environment, but to be mass produced. James Kunstler, the number one hater of the suburbs, talks about this in his ted talk. He resents the suburbs because everything looks the same making it superficial and an “ecology full of lies” (Kunstler). Not only that, but he discusses how if a person is on one side of the road and wants to look at the other side of the road, they can’t because the curvature of the Earth won’t let them. The architectural design of a street was not made correctly to its environment but was purely made for mass production. Now when upon looking at a structure from the University of the Sciences, the McNeil Science And Technology Center (STC) is a perfect representation of a good and bad architectural design. The tall glass windows that provide sunlight indoors creates a comfortable and varying stimulus. People gather at the STC because of how architecturally pleasing it is to look at with its high ceiling and an oculus roof letting in even more natural lighting. However, its classrooms are architecturally insufficient in its design. For example, the computer lab has big windows that are near the roof and are barely low enough for even the tallest person to see through them. It is impractical even for letting in sunlight because there barely is any light entering the room. The way the classrooms look they are not as aesthetically pleasing to the eye as when entering the STC in the first place. The learning environment where students will primarily be should be architecturally designed efficiently first, then everything else can be designed afterwards. Human behavior can be influenced by many different things, but architectural design physically, cognitively, and spiritually affects everybody in the world. However, buildings are a part of one’s everyday life and can easily influence a person’s behavior as shown by Robert Laws. Not only that, but the working place and educational institution’s architectural design can have a big impact in how a person preforms. The influence architectural design has on human behavior is called architectural determinism. This and biophilia, which is the tendency that humans want to interact with nature, helped Massachusetts general hospital create a healing environment for patients to recover faster by making a spinning bed that would spin facing a garden when it hit twenty-four hours. This can be connected to Michael Murphy’s idea of healing as well. If a person’s brain is not stimulated by internal or external factors, it could cause sensory deprivation that would either psychologically distress the person or even create hallucinations. This could also be compared to submarines and artificial lighting since both do not vary in stimuli. This stimulation of senses varying throughout the day is called Alliesthesia. Poor architectural design is also influenced by culture because of mass production wanting buildings made as fast as possible. This is an idea delved deeper by James Kunstler who talks about how architects do not take into consideration the environment in which they are building on. The STC is a great example of a good and bad architecturally designed building. With its openness and comfortable setting, it lets in a lot of sunlight and warmth. However, it lacks in thoughtful, efficient, and aesthetically pleasing design in the classrooms. Architectural design is one of the many things that influence human behavior therefore “we shape our buildings and thereafter our buildings shape us” (Churchill).
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