There are some interesting online courses about design, architecture and urbanism starting soon. Some are new and some are long-anticipated re-runs for me, since I missed previous sessions. Here they are:
Courses about design:
Environmental psychology visualized.
I found 10 more online courses that could be interesting if you’re into environmental psychology (part I here). Some are about to start, some already started, some are self-paced and some are finished but materials are still available, so check out and find the one you like:
1. Intro to the Design of Everyday Things at Udacity;
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.
It’s been a year since I started writing about relations between people’s environment and their feelings, thoughts and behaviour. I find Mind Shaped Box’s first birthday a great opportunity to summarize what were, for me, the most significant points over the past year. I decided that there should be 10 of them.
With 29 topics in environmental psychology covered, I’d like to start with 3 of my favourites posts:
Are you, like me, one of those people who think of floor plans as very important for comprehension of space? When I stumble upon a great house tour or newly built dwelling in a regular check up of my favourite design and architecture sites, floor plans provide very crucial information for me. Like any design lover, I want to be able to visualize that beautiful space better in order to appreciate it and enjoy more. Photographs are great (and indispensable), but there’s something about floor plans that gets my imagination going.
Vintage magazine scan containing a floor plan; photo by SportSuburban
Since floor plans can be considered a spatial representation and communication tool – between architects, constructors, house sellers and house buyers, there’s a lot to be investigated from psychological perspectives on how people think about them, that is, on the cognitive processes underlying the conceptualization of floor plans.
“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.
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.
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.