Cities Need to Realize the Value of Emotional Design

When was that When was the last time you walked down a street with new buildings and felt something positive? Or anything at all?

Modern buildings have become boring – flat, plain, shiny, rectangular, drab, anonymous, characterless and boring. At best, these structures do not let us feel anything. In the worst case, they can have a negative impact on our mental health and physical stress. For example, in 1984, healthcare design researcher Roger Ulrich conducted a groundbreaking study proving that a space with a view of nature accelerates patients’ post-surgical recovery. There is now much more evidence that poor design can have a range of negative consequences, with studies showing that it can cause psychological distress and even lead to crime and antisocial behavior.

By 2050, seven out of ten people worldwide will live in a city. Yet despite the technological advances of the modern world, we have continued to create soulless spaces that reflect none of that genius. Whether you’re in downtown Hong Kong, Paris’ financial district or central Toronto, the human touch has faded from city design as social isolation grows and people increasingly feel overwhelmed and burned out.

However, I believe that change will come. It used to be that you could get away with the notion “less is more”. It is now becoming clear that the design of buildings and urban spaces depends on emotions.

In 2023, cities will begin to recognize the value of emotions. Architects and designers will begin to embrace the idea that the aesthetic quality and diversity of buildings deeply affects our feelings and has the power to lift our spirits, engage and connect.

CEOs, retailers, developers and architects will start thinking more about how urban planning can seduce, engage and inspire. Boring will no longer be competitive. Forward-thinking companies will respond by changing the way they commission new buildings. Examples have already surfaced – from Leeds, where Acme Studio breathed personality and breathed new life into a derelict industrial site, to Burkina Faso, where Kéré Architects created a soulful health center in the town of Leo.

The climate emergency will accelerate this change. Construction is one of the biggest polluters on earth – 38 percent of energy-related CO2 -Emissions in 2018 were caused by the industry alone. Every year, an area the size of Washington, DC is demolished in the United States. In the UK, the average commercial building is condemned to demolition before it even turns 40 years old. In 2023 we will see growing outrage at the wastefulness of this approach to urban planning.

Individual concerns about the health of the planet will play a part. This year’s heatwaves have already prompted calls to make our streets greener. In 2023, the global movement to plant more trees in cities will become even stronger. Green infrastructure is understood as critical national infrastructure, just like energy and transport, and we will have a tree for every person in every city around the world.

In 2023, we will finally start connecting the dots between building places people love and protecting the planet. The passion for the places that surround us becomes the key to the design of streets and buildings full of detail, inventiveness and three-dimensionality. These new and radically human spaces are cherished and will serve each resident and visitor for many years to come, rather than join the graveyard of dreary structures none of us have ever really cared for.

https://www.wired.com/story/cities-architecture-design/ Cities Need to Realize the Value of Emotional Design

Zack Zwiezen

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