Archive for ‘building exterior’

January 19, 2015

Kindergarten Design: Buildings That Encourage Development

Pedagogical traditions seem to be very interested in the effects that environmental factors have on (small) people.  Over a century ago, some models like Montessori and Waldorf, which have influenced mainstream kindergarten practice as well, started promoting the idea that a great deal of attention should be put into the fabrics, the materials,  the colors and  the overall organization of spaces for children.

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Fuji kindergarten exterior; photo by 準建築人手札網站 Forgemind ArchiMedia

Since I work in a kindergarten as a psychologist one day a week, I recently had the opportunity to learn more about the psychology of spaces for children. Our small kindergarten was about to get a budget-friendly makeover and we were all asked for opinions. I spent a lot of time looking for research-based guidelines for kindergarten design, as well as coordinating everyone’s personal preferences. Here I would like to share some of the findings, and  some inspiring examples and other resources I found.

 

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March 1, 2012

Design Interventions to Promote Stair Use

At my very empirically and behaviorally oriented psychology college department, psychology was most often defined as a social science aiming to describe, explain, predict and control behaviour. I’ve always had a problem with this control part, or manipulate, as it was sometimes put. Do we really aim to manipulate all the “non-psychologists”, as we sometimes call them? If so, who decides what people should or shouldn’t do, what’s desirable and what’s unacceptable behavior?

Stairs at Vatican Museum; photo by Giorgos~ (moving to Google+)

For me, manipulation means leading someone to do something you want them to do (but they don’t). On the contrary, I see my role as helping people do things they want, but for different reasons don’t succeed. 

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January 5, 2012

Straight vs. Curved Lines in Architecture – the Importance of Forms for our Well-being

Loving works of architecture is, in a way, like loving people – some are cute, interesting,  not too strange, and appear warm and friendly. They seem somewhat familiar and are easy to love from the first sight. Then there are others, who make a lousy first impression – they seem boring and cold, but when you get to know them, they grow on you. Even more, you fall crazily in love with them.

Farnsworth house, designed by  Ludwig Mies van der Rohe in 1951, an icon of 20th century modern architecture; photo by andrewzahn

And this is how I’d describe my love for modernist minimalistic design with its straight lines and rectilinear shapes. It wasn’t until I learnt about the philosophy behind it, that I started to see it as not boring, but pure; not cold, but honest; and not depressing, but rather idealistic. In spite of my initaial lack of interest, I eventually fell in love with it.

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October 24, 2011

Housing Quality and Children’s Socioemotional Well-being

“By falling serendipitously into teaching in a Waldorf school for five years, I deeply learned the impact that an environment has on a person (particularly children). I saw, first hand, that the children who did best in the classroom came from the best homes, but this had nothing to do with any rich/poor divide, and all of the ingredients of the good homes that I witnessed were accessible to all.”

photo by yvestown

This teacher’s observation inspired me to look up for research on effects that housing quality has on children. And while “doing best in the classroom” could be understood as academic achievement, I’d like to look at in a broader sense of socioemotional wellbeing – it could mean the children who function the best in academic, social, and emotional aspects of their lives – who are motivated, interested, mature, creative, playful enough, cooperative, caring, etc.

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October 16, 2011

Motives for Visiting Houses of Worship and Monasteries

Given the symbolic of religious spaces as the refugees from this world’s troubles, it’s understandable that environmental psychologists have recently become interested in monasteries and houses of worship as restorative environments. In order to investigate restorative potential of such settings, the first step would be to explore reasons people go there, and see if there are any parallels with theories of psychological restoration.

Sagrada Familia, Barcelona; photo by aurelian

The following studies explore how a monastery  (Ouellette et al., 2005) and houses of worship (Herzog et al., 2010) can serve as restorative settings in the context of Attention Restoration Theory but with due regard for the spiritual nature of the setting.

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October 4, 2011

High Floor – High Life? What Changes as You Climb Upwards?

Just like Manhattan’s skyscrapers, the epitome of modern high-rise living, seem to appear from the water, a city of Shibam, consisting entirely of  5 to 11 storey tower-houses originating from the 16th century, rises in the middle of a desert in Yemen. This UNESCO World Heritage Site reminds us that high-rise living is not as recent phenomenon as we might usually think. On the contrary, apartment buildings rising up to 10 and more floors were built even in ancient Rome.

Shibam, Yemen, “the Manhattan of the desert”; photo by Michel Banabila

However, it wasn’t until recently that high-rise living became wide-spread and available to so many people, and since it can be expected that its prevalence would only grow further, the following question becomes relevant: If you were to choose between two identical apartments, would you go for the one on a lower floor, or the one on a higher floor? Which would be your ideal living height? Since living high in the air is evolutionary novel experience for our species, one wonders how well are we able to adapt to it.

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September 3, 2011

How and Why is Academic Performance Related to School Building Condition?

When you take a look at your local elementary school, does it appear as if something truly amazing is happening inside it? Does it look like a place where young minds get inspired, where their future matters, and where knowledge is celebrated? Take  a look at Faculty of Business and Economics in Melbourne for example – seems like something really important and classy happens there. Compared to it, every elementary school I know looks like just another institution, predictively bland and uninspiring. Like somebody didn’t have fun making it. And others don’t have fun going to it. Like somebody wasn’t proud and excited to get a job of building it. And others aren’t proud to have the opportunity to learn in it. Or excited to have the privilege to teach in it.

Faculty of Business and Economics, The University of Melbourne; photo by Wojtek Gurak

Aside from not being  bold, futuristic and daring architectural statements that give you goosebumps while thinking “Ahh..the temple of knowledge..”, many schools are in really bad condition, too. Leeking roofs, damaged walls and broken windows all tell the story of neglectance and insensitivity. Students in those schools seem to receive the message of being a low priority loud and clear and tend to act upon it – through lower academic achievement.

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July 5, 2011

Quantifying the Value of a Priceless View

Of all the things that can be bought and sold, is there anything that’s more important for building your life around it, than a home? There’s nothing I can think of right now, and that’s probably why selling it is so stressful. It’s hard to see your home as an empty shell, stripped of all your stuff and even harder to have its value pinned down to money. When we have to put a price tag on anything that’s dear to us, it just feels like a misfit translation of values. Market value of your home cannot reflect all the special moments shared in it, a part of your life “left” in it, that special value that makes is a home for you.

A home by K_M Architektur at Lake Walensee, Switzerland; 

photo by JoeInSouthernCA

Those values can be completely unrelated, too. You can spend a very happy period of your life in a home with a lower market value, and live very poorly in an expensive home. It seems that  when we’re selling a home, we’re very aware the fact that we’re selling bare walls and not our experience of a home, but when we’re buying a new one, we are trying to capture those feelings of a special place and homey feeling nonetheless (and real estate agents know it!). We look out for cues that reveal a potential for happiness, and, like with all purchases, we’re willing to let go of completely objective, logical reasoning and also act emotionally, impulsively, “fall in love” with some features. While quantitative variables like square footage and number of bedrooms might be the most important for making a reasonable decision about home buying, the most intriguing material for falling in love is the view.

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June 7, 2011

Landscape Preferences and Water Consumption Issues in the Desert

When it comes to landscaping preferences, we seem to have a thing for the exotic – trying to grow a Mediterranean garden in a wet oceanic climate, a big green lawn in a desert climate and tropical plants in a continental climate. While I don’ think there’s anything wrong with being inspired by things that come from afar, there’s no reason to belive that they fit our surroundings better that anything native. And while globalisation has come so far that there’s no special maintainance issue whether you choose either American, European or Japanese car, maintaining non-native landscapes can cause further problems.

Red Box; photo by Jeremy Levine Design

One of the most important aspects of environmental psychology is investigating and promoting environmentally friendly attitudes and behaviour, so the following research deals with that issue. Aiming to identify ways to reduce outdoor residential water use in the desert area of the southwestern United States, Yabiku and colleagues (2008) examined landscape preferences and some factors associated with them.

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May 15, 2011

Red and Blue: Colors Affect Thinking

Psychologically speaking, colors represent such an important aspect of our environments, and are usually what we dwell upon the most when decorating our places. That’s why it is easy to understand the popularity of research about effects that colors have on people. However, among all there is to learn, I consider a systematic series of experiments based on theory such as this by Mehta and Zhu (2009) a rare, precious find.

Carefully selected colors; photo by IDA Interior LifeStyle

Authors aimed to investigate how red and blue affect performance on tasks that require different thinking processes, and to explain why those colors have those exact effects.

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