An Architectural Record Notable Book
A fascinating, thought-provoking journey into our built environment
Modern humans are an indoor species. We spend 90 percent of our time inside, shuttling between homes and offices, schools and stores, restaurants and gyms. And yet, in many ways, the indoor world remains unexplored territory. For all the time we spend inside buildings, we rarely stop to consider: How do these spaces affect our mental and physical well-being? Our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors? Our productivity, performance, and relationships?
In this wide-ranging, character-driven book, science journalist Emily Anthes takes us on an adventure into the buildings in which we spend our days, exploring the profound, and sometimes unexpected, ways that they shape our lives. Drawing on cutting-edge research, she probes the pain-killing power of a well-placed window and examines how the right office layout can expand our social networks. She investigates how room temperature regulates our cognitive performance, how the microbes hiding in our homes influence our immune systems, and how cafeteria design affects what—and how much—we eat.
Along the way, Anthes takes readers into an operating room designed to minimize medical errors, a school designed to boost students’ physical fitness, and a prison designed to support inmates’ psychological needs. And she previews the homes of the future, from the high-tech houses that could monitor our health to the 3D-printed structures that might allow us to live on the Moon.
The Great Indoors provides a fresh perspective on our most familiar surroundings and a new understanding of the power of architecture and design. It's an argument for thoughtful interventions into the built environment and a story about how to build a better world—one room at a time.
Journalist Anthes (Frankenstein's Cat) explores cutting-edge innovations in architecture and interior design in her enjoyable and educational work of pop science. Most chapters focus on a particular type of indoor space and recent efforts to improve it for example, hospitals being designed with more green space, or offices planned with both worker productivity and comfort in mind. Some of the most intriguing chapters pertain to improving the lives of vulnerable or marginalized individuals, as with housing developments built specifically for adults with autism, who often have certain sensory or socialization issues, or just need extra help to live on their own. Elsewhere, Anthes discusses the harshness of prisons designed to "control, shame and stigmatize," and contrasts that with a California facility where a more open plan resulted in a considerable improvement in inmate behavior. Ending on a fun note, Anthes outlines the work of "space architects" designing structures for habitation on Mars. Though far from a rigorous scientific study, this thoughtful work will prompt readers to more carefully consider the spaces they commonly inhabit but may rarely think about.