One of the nation’s chief architecture critics reveals how the environments we build profoundly shape our feelings, memories, and well-being, and argues that we must harness this knowledge to construct a world better suited to human experience.
Taking us on a fascinating journey through some of the world’s best and worst landscapes, buildings, and cityscapes, Sarah Williams Goldhagen draws from recent research in cognitive neuroscience and psychology to demonstrate how people’s experiences of the places they build are central to their well-being, their physical health, their communal and social lives, and even their very sense of themselves. From this foundation, Goldhagen presents a powerful case that societies must use this knowledge to rethink what and how they build: the world needs better-designed, healthier environments that address the complex range of human individual and social needs.
By 2050 America’s population is projected to increase by nearly seventy million people. This will necessitate a vast amount of new construction—almost all in urban areas—that will dramatically transform our existing landscapes, infrastructure, and urban areas. Going forward, we must do everything we can to prevent the construction of exhausting, overstimulating environments and enervating, understimulating ones. Buildings, landscapes, and cities must both contain and spark associations of natural light, greenery, and other ways of being in landscapes that humans have evolved to need and expect. Fancy exteriors and dramatic forms are never enough, and may not even be necessary; authentic textures and surfaces, and careful, well-executed construction details are just as important.
Erudite, wise, lucidly written, and beautifully illustrated with more than one hundred color photographs, Welcome to Your World is a vital, eye-opening guide to the spaces we inhabit, physically and mentally, and a clarion call to design for human experience.
Architecture critic Goldhagen (Anxious Modernisms) makes a passionate, persuasive plea for better design a built environment that places humans before the "short-term or parochial interests" that typically drive construction and renovation of human habitats. This generously illustrated volume takes readers on a tour of the built environments in which most of us live, work, and play, using concrete examples in each chapter to anchor the author's arguments. The first two chapters describe the status quo and introduce the concept of "blindsight," a cognitive condition the author employs as a metaphor to explore the complex role built environment plays in an individual's experience and internal world. She also discusses the human need for nature and the ways that social environments shape and are shaped by spatial design, and concludes with suggestions for design that supports, rather than works against, human thriving. The author has an educator's conviction that bad design is grounded in ignorance, and that if "people understand just how much design matters, they'd care... they'd change." Yet much of our built environment is the result of policy and investment decisions that remain opaque to the average resident of a city apartment complex, visitor to a public park, or employee in an office building. Because of this, more examples of grassroots organizing for change would have strengthened the work's final chapters; readers will be justified in wondering whence the political and economic will to change might spring. Color photos.