Have you ever been in a waiting room, an office, building or any kind of space that enlivened you? Or one that made you feel as it you wanted to escape? Research suggests that our surroundings have a serious impact on mood and motivation. Meeting human needs in the spaces we design is paramount, according to cutting edge experts in these fields. When form follows function and function includes visceral and emotional needs, people flourish.
At a recent University of Texas at Austin conference, The Psychology of Architecture, industrial psychologist Cristina Banks, director of the Interdisciplinary Center for Healthy Workplaces at University of California, Berkeley, was emphatic about the power of design to conjure well-being. She said that if the built environment meets eight human needs — physical vitality, equity, connection, safety, flexibility, predictability, comfort and privacy — people are productive, happy and healthy. Spaces that stimulate conversation with others but also facilitate solitude bring out the best. Banks explained that whatever one’s role in the office, when all players have access to private space, wellness is preserved.
Another feature of a well-designed building is proximity to nature. Buildings with ample windows, raw wood, greenery, films of waving wheat, rolling waves and fluttering leaves in enclosed stairwells keep people peppy and primed to engage. In “sick” or “toxic” buildings, sick days, slack-off and miseries mount. When people are seated in windowless boxes for the duration of the day it takes a toll. Exposure to nature, autonomy and agility breed positive results in work and preserve wellness.
University of Texas at Austin School of Architecture professor Elizabeth Danze described commonalities between the psychoanalytic process and architecture. A successful building and a successful psychoanalysis free the inner person. A good building, like a good treatment, awakens daydreams, deep wishes, imagination, tranquility and creativity. Danze pointed out that we have visceral responses to our spaces — they have a huge impact on emotion.
This blog is an adaptation of one originally written for the Dell Medical School at the University of Texas in Austin.