Environmental psychology meets (interior) architecture
Think about the last time you were in an environment that caused stress to you. Maybe it was a busy shopping street where you could not find your way? Or that one room where you could not open the door because you actually had to pull instead of push?
And now, think about a moment you were in an environment that gave you a peaceful feeling. Maybe during a walk in the forest? Or a pleasant conversation you had with a friend in a coffee bar?
This is environmental psychology. All these elements present in our environment: crowding, legibility, contradictory information, nature, smell, comfortable seats facing each other, etc. have an influence on how we feel and behave. We are confronted with it every day, but we are just not always aware of it.
Architecture meets environmental psychology
Environmental psychology studies the objective majority of certain effects of the built and natural environment on people. Just like other areas in psychology, the answer is never black or white, but grey. As psychologists we look at how the majority of the people experience something, but of course, there are always exceptions which can refute the theories.
Additionally, environmental psychology is a quite new discipline (from the 60’s), especially in Belgium. This gives us the opportunity to experiment with how we can integrate this new discipline into the architectural process. At the moment, we do this on the basis of ‘tailor-made Evidence-Based Design’. So on the one hand, we base our designs on existing theories of environmental psychology (e.g. environmental restoration, wayfinding, etc.). And on the other hand, we specifically collect information from and about the users and their environment. We do this by organising sessions in the studied organisation/institution whereby we apply research methods (e.g. interviews, mapping, etc.) and analyse systematically the obtained information. So in other words, on the basis of the information obtained from a literature study and fieldwork, we design a (built) environment that responds to the unique concerns of the project and contributes to its users’ wellbeing.
‘Healing (residential) care environments’
To make the design methodology of ‘tailor-made Evidence-Based Design’ as accessible and applicable as possible in our office, I wrote a bundle of books about ‘Healing (residential) care environments’. The first book includes guidelines with basic principles of environmental psychology in order to create a healing and supportive environment for the users. The second book consists of a casestudy of the project Revapolis in Zandhoven: here, Pulderbos, a rehabilitation centre for children and adolescents, and Hooidonk, a holiday and recovery centre for elderly, come together. To illustrate the application of the design methodology and guidelines, an extensive description is written about the conducted observations and interviews in both organisations. Subsequently, the collected information was processed in an analysis, whereby the results are tested against theories of environmental psychology, and written up as guidelines specific for this project.
Besides this methodology, we also apply the design methodology of ‘Scenario-Based Design’ in order to ensure that there is a focus on the end-user during the entire design process and with every design change.
Case study - CIO UNILAB