Architecture refers to the style, character, design, and structure of a building. Built structures or buildings are not mere constituents of brick, stone, wood, etc. A deeper examination of a building, especially its architecture is associated with various psychological aspects. 

One of the most salient features of architecture is that it reflects culture and cultural identity. The architectural style represents the characteristics of a place, region, and country; it is said to be the representation of people and societies. Architecture suggestibly is strongly associated with the culture, values, and behavior patterns of the society. The architectural style of a particular period is a reflection of the culture of that time.

The architecture of any place reflects its history and heritage. It reflects the identity of civilizations that thrived in the past. It is a demonstration of their socio-political and cultural forces. It is the physical expression of ancestral culture, philosophy, and lifestyle.

Further, architecture displays the relation of the past with the present. It enables an understanding of the present as a factor of the past. It traces the history of a nation and it shapes its cultural identity. 

Architecture is thus, a manifestation of history, identity, culture, tradition, society and civilization, philosophy, as well as insights and knowledge of the community as a whole. Examples of specific architectural styles that reflect culture and society are the European architecture, Indo-Islamic architecture, Ancient Indian architecture, Central Asian architecture, and so on.

An intriguing feature of architecture is that it depicts a meaning system or semantics. The semantics represented in architecture is rooted in ideology and philosophy of society and culture, which together form shared meanings. These shared meanings are represented in symbols in architecture, with different symbols having different meanings.

The architectural theorist, Rapoport, suggests three levels of semantics reflected in architecture. The three levels are ideological or high level meanings, social or middle level meanings, and behavioral or low level meanings.

High level meanings are about cosmologies, cultural schemata, and philosophical ideas. The middle level meanings are about reflecting wealth, power, and status. The low level meanings are expected behaviors associated with architecture. These different levels may vary across different cultures and different periods of time. 

Along with reflection of culture and display of semantics, architecture, the style in which buildings are designed, has been found to have an influence on mental and physical health of people. This aspect of architecture is associated with social design or social design research, in which architects collaborate with social scientists to design a building that best serves the requirements and desires of individuals.

A great amount of research suggests that social design can play a significant role in healthcare environments. Architects with making significant changes in buildings has been found to have a positive influence on patients’ satisfaction, quality of life, sleeping patterns, and anger management.

Research suggests that designing spaces in such a way in which patients get good enough privacy is beneficial for health. Further, designing places in such a way that gives them an outside view helps in recovery, especially a daylight view. Additionally, designing places in a way that gives them access to nature and outdoors has been found to be therapeutic. 

Also, giving patients a comfort and controllability in movement, and having distinguishable demarcations for public and private spaces reduces stress levels. Finally, changing interiors, in the sense of using a wide range of colors, textures, and art, including paintings, has a positive effect on the health of patients.

Research, further, suggests that making subtle changes in hospitals and psychiatric centers such as shaded lightings, a home-like environment, and designing the surroundings as per the requirements of the inhabitants, have led to better conditions in patients of multiple sclerosis, mental retardation, delinquents, and psychotics. A similar approach has been found to be beneficial even for classrooms, offices, and public buildings.

Specific aspects of architecture like stimulation and coherence have also been found to be related to stress, even in non-patients. Stimulation is the amount of information in a setting, which is related to complexity, novelty, intensity, and variety. Too much stimulation such as complex patterns or extremely bright colors, in the interiors of a building, can be puzzling, and thus, stressful. Coherence is clarity and comprehensibility of the elements of a building. If there is incoherence, that is, there are ambiguous cues, disorganized patterns, and difficulty in predictions, then it leads to stress.

This aspect of architecture being related to mental and physical health is something that people are not very much aware of. It goes to show that architecture is not just an aspect of art and culture, but it can be something that is very beneficial for human beings. Designing buildings keeping in view the requirements and general health of individuals provides a very unique and intriguing aspect of architecture. 

A very fascinating aspect of architecture is that it can be associated with the unconscious. The unconscious or the unconscious mind, according to Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytic theory, is the reservoir of thoughts, feelings, and memories that are not accessible to conscious awareness and yet influences behavior.

The design of a building developed by the architect is derived by many contributing factors. These contributing factors may be the experience and imagination of the architect, which may be an expression of the unconscious. Even though vague in nature, this aspect of architecture is not completely unfathomable.

The unconscious also plays a role in architecture in the form of changes in mood and responses. Architecture that is meant to visually stir individuals may affect them in terms of other senses as well. The responses due to the non-visual senses, such as an echo of steps, can address individuals unconsciously. 

Research suggests that the non-visual senses in the surroundings in an architectural piece, such as smell or sound, tend to affect the unconscious and plays a role in change in responses and mood. Even though being quite complex, this aspect of architecture is very fascinating and arouses a lot of curiosity. 

The design and structure of a building, therefore, has a number of psychological aspects. It can be associated with cultural heritage, meaning systems, mental and physical health, and the unconscious. Architecture, as mentioned above, is not simply about art or being a visual marvel, it is in fact something beyond the usual and the expected.

Saif Farooqi

A PhD in Psychology (from the University of Delhi). I have been blogging about psychological issues for more than ten years. I am extremely passionate about teaching psychology. I'm a writer, podcaster, and TEDx speaker. I also conduct workshops and awareness programs in schools and colleges. Currently, I'm also working as an Assistant Professor at the Department of Psychology, Faculty of Social Sciences, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi, India

1 comment:

Ami said...

Nowadays there is an emphasis on green architecture. This is especially among people who recognize the impact that architecture has on mental wellness.