January 19, 2015
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.
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May 5, 2012
When it comes to aesthetic preferences, I like to remember an older colleague’s explanation of why his wife’s eyes are beautiful – not because they fit some common criteria of what is considered a beautiful shape, size, or color, but simply because they’re hers. He loves her, he loves her eyes. Many memories are kept in those eyes. He watches them smile, cry, get angry, getting old, and sees the value and beauty in them.
Is this a beauty pageant?; Lime Tree Avenue, Clumber Park, Nottinghamshire; photo by Lincolnian (Brian)
There are some things we consider beautiful (or at least want to) per se, just because. All the things and people we love could be included here, and everything we think of as valuable. Just writing about how some trees are prefered over others because of their appearance seems somewhat unfair.
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January 29, 2012
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:
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February 19, 2011
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.
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February 13, 2011
Since we are free to shape our built environment almost as we like (within our budget, known building materials and the laws of physics and state), why not make it beautiful? It seems like a rather blunt question, but if you look around, you will probably notice quite a few aesthetically unpleasing buildings. Surely their architects didn’t intend to insult your taste, so what actually happened there? Some of those buildings may be old and poorly maintained, but it is not uncommon for a newly built project to be called ugly by the public while considered a masterpiece by professionals. Similarly, some houses that were built exactly to suit their owners’ taste, are proclaimed to be a poor architecture by the professionals. Clearly, what we perceive as a good-looking building is very subjective; beauty is in the eye of beholder, as someone wisely put it. And building users often look at it differently than architects.
Caixa Forum art exibition, Madrid, Spain; photo by dirk huijssoon
As it often happens when we identify any differences, we instantly try to figure out who is right and who is wrong, or at least, whose opinion is more important. Is the customer always right or should we leave it to the professionals? This can lead to a long and emotional discussion, but lets not go there for once – looking for a winner-looser situation is never the optimal solution. That is why I was pleasantly surprised to find a piece of work that tries to reconcile differences between professionals and laymen in preferences for the appearance of built environment.
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