In a world where we spend the majority of our lives surrounded by buildings, the impact of architecture on our well-being often goes unnoticed. But what if I told you that the buildings you encounter every day could be affecting your health, both physically and mentally? This article uncovers how ugly architecture may be silently undermining your health, while the beauty in design could be your secret to a longer, healthier life. Prepare to see the structures around you in an entirely new light.
During the 1970s, the couple Rachel and Stephen Kaplan conducted research on how wilderness experiences in the state of Michigan, USA, affected a group of individuals. They found that natural environments are particularly rich in the characteristics necessary for restorative experiences. Time spent in nature can provide mental relaxation, rejuvenation, and recovery. According to their theory, people concentrate better after spending time in nature or even looking at scenes of nature.
Aesthetics Impact Health: Beautiful Views Aid Recovery
The aesthetics of our surroundings actually have a direct impact on both our physical and mental health. In 2005, Cecilia Svensson and Linda Johansson from Blekinge Technical University reviewed several studies on the subject. They found that patients in hospitals recover more quickly if their environment includes details such as colors and shapes.
One of the studies they refer to involved two groups of patients. One group had a view of a brick wall, while the other had a view of a park with beautiful trees and bushes. It turned out that the group with a view of the park required fewer painkillers. Furthermore, they experienced fewer postoperative complications such as headaches, nausea, and dizziness. It was also observed that light, varied colors, and contrasts between them contributed to faster recovery. The recovery process was objectively measurable.
Gorgeous Urban Architecture Boosts Health
At the British University of Warwick, an extensive study was conducted in 2017. It established that beautiful urban architecture has the same positive impact on our physical and mental health as green parks. The study mentions that was previously known that beautiful natural areas not only make us happier but also prolong our lives.
The aim of the study was to determine exactly which types of landscapes make us healthier. Researchers asked people to rate the beauty of different landscapes using 212,000 different pictures taken around the UK. They then compared the 1.5 million ratings with how the residents in those areas perceived their own health. Man-made elements including historical architecture such as ‘Church’, ‘Castle’, ‘Tower’ and ‘Cottage’ made places look more attractive and get better ratings for their beauty. The results suggest that architecture and design influence people’s health and that the importance of our urban environment being perceived as beautiful was previously underestimated.
Ugly Buildings Give People Headaches
On the other hand, ugly architecture could have direct negative consequences. Arnold J. Wilkins, Professor of Psychology at the University of Essex, has found that looking at certain urban landscapes may actually give you a headache and cause migraines. Over the last 100 years, the design of buildings has been departing further and further from the rule of nature, making the buildings less and less comfortable to look at. The monotonous straight lines of modernist architecture affect us in such a way that our brains react with pain. In his conclusion, Wilkins suggests that “perhaps it’s time for the rule of nature to be incorporated into the software that is used to design buildings and offices.”
A Wake-up Call for Architects and Builders
These studies are a reminder that beauty and design are not just aesthetic preferences; they are integral to our well-being. The buildings that surround us, whether awe-inspiring or uninspiring, play a vital role in our physical and mental health.
After a century of architectural divergence from nature’s principles, it becomes evident that this trend adversely affects our well-being. Arnold J. Wilkins proposed the integration of natural rules into building design software. But until then, architects and builders should give this phenomenon more careful consideration in their designs.