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.
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.
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.
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;
“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.
What is the key factor that makes some neighbourhoods friendly and social, and others alienated and detached? Is it the wealth of its inhabitants, or the size of the community? Is it impossible to create a strong sense of community in a big city or in wealthier neighbourhoods? I don’t think so, because there are some design features that can foster community attachment, facilitate social interaction, and create a sense of community identity.
Very similar houses in traditional suburbia (click to enlarge); photo by San Diego Shooter
When speaking of residential areas, people usually think of conventional suburban developments with very similar single family houses on large lots, isolated from commercial parts of town. From a bird’s perspective this tame environment looks like it would make a foundation for a very close-knit community. However, as it’s became evident throughout 20th century, high car dependence, one of the most prominent characteristics of suburbia, causes a number of problems – economical, environmental, health, and – social. People never get the chance to see their neighbours and develop a sense of community.
Imagine you designed a brand new night club, movie theater, stadium, or concert hall; a place for people to gather and enjoy themselves, to watch a music show or football match. You picked just the right colors, used interesting shapes, took care about acoustics, visibility, accessibility, comfort. You got everything right. Still, about half of people visiting your new masterpiece of modern architecture won’t be able to enjoy it to the full potential, but instead spend enormous amount of time waiting in a toilet line. Why? Because you thought that providing equal square footage in men’s and women’s restrooms is fair enough.
photo by Xerones
What does a value of equal opportunities have in common with public restrooms? Equal opportunity is described as a situation in which people have the same chances in life as other people, without being treated in an unfair way because of their race, sex, sexuality, religion, or age. So, are all people treated right in public restrooms? Just by observing long lines that form in front of the women’s’ toilets you can sense that it is a place of unequal opportunities – at least unequal speed of access. Furthermore, different people have different specific needs that architects should take into consideration when designing. Since everyone uses restrooms multiple times a day, negligence in design may be a regular source of annoyance, discomfort, and frustration for some users. I belive that when simple changes in design have potential to significantly improve quality of life and promote universal values, then it should be done so.