How Architecture Impacts Our Cities and Our Lives

Societies that participate in designing their architectural landscape have higher chances of being healthy and happy – though companies like Fourwalls do a good job, we need to find alternatives too.

Darwinian Theory stipulates that all species should be drawn towards the type of environment they are likely to thrive in. For humans, this implies settings providing a healthy mix of refuge and information. Our sensory instincts are not the best relative to those of other species, however, we are excellent at consuming and interpreting boatloads of information. We look to discover additional environmental information just like a bee searches for nectar.

We love engaging spaces: intricate and with some degree of mystery. We are bored by the familiar straight streets structured into patterns of grid layouts, instead, we prefer meandering streets that build our anticipation of what lies ahead. Settings that trigger our thirst for knowledge and adventure are our favourite, as we seek to satisfy our curious minds.

Legible Settings

A setting is “legible” if it can be easily surveyed or mapped out in the mind. The ability to view the way ahead, referred to as prospect, is an element of this. Completely legible environments must have certain identifiable features that guide our movement, such as a clump of trees in indigenous savannahs.

The landscapes we are most attracted to equally prioritise orderliness with complexity, legibility with puzzles. Natural environments exhibit fractal geometry, accompanied by distinct structure and complexity. These fractal designs are significant in grasping the fitness in buildings, from the features of windows to the setup of London streets and the sequentially ordered domes of Hindu temples.

The shape of indigenous settlements and structures originated from the ordered intricacy of our brains and bodies – our neurological functions exhibit fractal characteristics as is the case with the cell biology of our body organs. Previously, structures advanced organically by employing natural elements such as stones and wood. Buildings improved slowly. Roads twisted and turned based on the shape of the land.

However, a lot of this has been encroached by the immense scale and extremely dynamic way of life in the 21st-century. A majority of our daily settings do not inspire creativity, wellbeing and togetherness. Then, how do we redesign the world which we desire to shape us? “What most people call bad design isn’t bad design,” states Alastair Parvin, the co-founder of WikiHouse, which is an open-source building system for creating and constructing inexpensive houses. He adds that this is a completely different class of economic goals, which is creating real estate.

Making a New Setting

To design environments that are aligned to human needs, you must give individuals the resources to co-create their workspaces, streets and houses. When people are engaged in designing and nurturing settings they experience a higher sense of influence, collectiveness and pride – a phenomenon called “collective efficacy”. This translates into less violent crimes, minimal littering and reduced vandalism in communities with a higher degree of collective efficacy.

Collective efficacy displayed by Bristol’s street artists, Detroit’s urban farms and smart Chilean “half-houses” creates ordered complexity and promotes vibrant and healthy spaces. We must actively participate in designing our environments – which shape us – for us to produce a resilient future.

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