How to bridge the gap between psychology and architecture?

In the 164. episode of URBCAST I had the pleasure to talk to My Lunsjö – an expert in behavioral design and Behavioural Design Specialist at 3XN/GXN. This article summarizes our conversation.

In the realm of design, the fusion of psychology and architecture has gained significant attention in recent years. This unique collaboration aims to bridge the gap between the built environment and the emotional well-being of its inhabitants. By considering human experience from a psychological perspective, architects can create spaces that not only cater to functional needs but also nurture our senses and enhance our overall well-being.

The journey towards this integrative approach often begins with personal experiences and realizations. For one architect – My Lunsjö, the initial passion for the field was fueled by romanticized visions of sketching and inspiring others. However, the reality of working in an office and spending hours in front of a computer screen left a void. It became apparent that the profession needed to encompass more than just functional requirements; it needed to prioritize the emotional and psychological aspects of design as well.

Driven by this revelation, My embarked on a quest to explore the intersection of architecture and psychology. Enrolling in courses in environmental psychology and general psychology, she sought to understand how design can influence human emotions and well-being. Eventually, this pursuit led to her master’s degree in environmental psychology—a pivotal moment that allowed My to merge her passion for architecture with the study of human behavior.

Today, her work as a behavioral design specialist revolves around collaborating with architectural teams, engaging in design meetings, and conducting workshops. She combines her knowledge of psychology with her creative faculties to develop design guidelines and present proposals to both design teams and clients. Furthermore, she keeps herself updated with the current academic literature, to gain a deeper understanding of how spaces impact individuals from a psychological perspective.

Inclusivity and accessibility are crucial considerations in architectural design. My recognizes that everyone should be able to navigate and feel valued within a space. Achieving this requires not only engaging with diverse groups, including children, the elderly, and individuals with various abilities, but also understanding how people´s individual needs may change during time. By considering the needs of different user profiles, architects can create spaces that foster inclusivity and respect the dignity of all.

To truly enhance the human experience, My emphasizes the importance of engaging multiple senses in design. Modernistic architecture, with its focus on perfection and uniformity, often neglects this essential aspect. However, a counter movement is underway, embracing imperfections and variations that stimulate our senses and produce positive bodily responses. By incorporating tactile materials, soft curves, varied soundscapes, and adaptable lighting, architects can create spaces that resonate with our innate connection to the natural world.

While the integration of psychology and architecture is gaining momentum, there remains a discrepancy between theory and practice. Shopping malls, for instance, often overlook the principles of sensory design, bombarding visitors with harsh lighting and loud music. This paradox highlights the need for greater awareness and implementation of psychological design principles in the built environment. Overcoming this challenge requires a shift in focus from mass production and efficiency to prioritizing the well-being of individuals within the spaces we create.

The collaboration between psychology and architecture opens exciting possibilities for the future of design. By considering the emotional and sensory aspects of human experience, architects can create spaces that nourish our well-being. From the early stages of a project to the finest details, integrating psychology into architectural design can transform the way we interact with our built environment, enhancing our connection to both our surroundings and us. As this collaboration continues to evolve, it holds the potential to reshape our cities and positively impact our lives.

If you enjoyed reading this article, I hope you will also enjoy listening to my conversation with My here:

Author: Marcin Żebrowski

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