Why does modern buildings tend to look so harsh and feel so unhospitable? Michael Mehaffy and Nikos A. Salingaros say its because the designer literally suffer from “architectural myopia” :
Have you ever looked at a bizarre building design and wondered, What were the architects thinking? Have you looked at a supposedly ecological industrial-looking building, and questioned how it could be truly ecological? Or have you simply felt frustrated by a building that made you uncomfortable, or felt anger when a beautiful old building was razed and replaced with a contemporary eyesore? You might be forgiven for thinking these architects must be blind! New research shows that in a real sense, you might actually be right.
Environmental psychologists have long known about this widespread and puzzling phenomenon. Laboratory results show conclusively that architects literally see the world differently from non-architects. Not only do architects notice and look for different aspects of the environment than other people; their brains seem to synthesize an understanding of the world that has notable differences from natural reality. Instead of a contextual world of harmonious geometric relationships and connectedness, architects tend to see a world of objects set apart from their contexts, with distinctive, attention-getting qualities.
There are many such confirming studies. For example, Gifford et al. (2002) surveyed other research and noted that architects did not merely disagree with laypersons about the aesthetic qualities of buildings, they were unable to predict how laypersons would assess buildings, even when they were explicitly asked to do so. The researchers traced this disagreement to well-known cognitive differences in the two populations: Evidence that certain cognitive properties are related to building preference [was] found.
We launched the First Things 2023 Year-End Campaign to keep articles like the one you just read free of charge to everyone.
Measured in dollars and cents, this doesn't make sense. But consider who is able to read First Things: pastors and priests, college students and professors, young professionals and families. Last year, we had more than three million unique readers on firstthings.com.
Informing and inspiring these people is why First Things doesn't only think in terms of dollars and cents. And it's why we urgently need your year-end support.
Will you give today?