A look at how new research in urban space, the built environment, and city planning stresses the importance of well-designed architecture for the betterment of society.
No art form has a more profound and lasting affect on the public than architecture. As the most widespread and practical artistic medium, architecture is experienced by virtually everyone no matter their location or background, yet there is often little consideration, not least among the public, about how the built environment shapes human experience. For Goldhagen, architecture critic and former professor at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design, this is a critical oversight. As the author points out, new research in cognitive science proves that human interaction with the built environment profoundly affects our ability to understand ourselves and others, particularly how place and memory are connected and how environments shape our understanding of memory and the past. Therefore, the need for thoughtful, human-centered design is an essential component to social progress and the betterment of humanity. But, good design does not simply imply access to resources and wealth. As Goldhagen points out, from a design perspective, there is not much separating a slum dwelling from a McMansion. Richly illustrated with photography supporting Goldhagen’s examples, which range from classical architecture such as the Parthenon to contemporary stadium design, her analysis is practical and accessible, synthesizing scientific research with architectural theory about space and design. Focusing on how the built environment shapes social relations, both public and private, Goldhagen discusses how views of nature and natural elements are essential to good design, as well as breaking down how variable surface types affect human perceptions, among other topics. At times dense and verging on academic, Goldhagen has provided a valuable compendium to design analysis and the benefits of progress in contemporary design.
An eye-opening look at the ways in which carefully planned and executed design and architecture can expand cognitive faculties and improve daily life.