Cities, we must design them with emotions in mind

Cities, we must design them with emotions in mind


When was the last time you felt a positive emotion while walking along a city street and looking at new buildings? Or, in general, any emotion? Modern buildings have become boring: flat, mundane, shiny, rectangular, monotonous, anonymous, characterless and drab. At best, these structures cause no sensation in us. At worst, however, they can have a negative impact on our mental health and also affect physical stress. In 1984, for example, Roger Ulrich, a healthcare design researcher, conducted a groundbreaking study demonstrating how a room with a view of nature accelerated patients' post-surgery recovery. Today we have much more evidence demonstrating the negative repercussions of poor design, which according to studies can cause mental stress and even promote crime or antisocial behavior.

Focus on emotions

By 2050, seven out of ten people worldwide will live in cities. Yet despite the technological advances of the modern world, we have continued to create soulless spaces. Whether it's downtown Hong Kong, the financial district of Paris or downtown Toronto, the human touch has disappeared from urban design as social isolation grows and people feel increasingly overwhelmed and depleted.

However, I believe that change is coming. Today, the importance of the emotional dimension in the design of buildings and urban spaces is increasingly clear.

In 2023, cities will begin to recognize the value of emotions. Architects and planners will begin to embrace the idea that the aesthetic quality and diversity of buildings deeply influence our emotions and have the power to lift mood, engage us and connect.

New needs

CEOs, retailers, developers and architects will reflect more on how urban planning can attract, engage and inspire. Forward-thinking companies will start changing the way they commission new buildings. The examples are already there: from Leeds, where Acme Studio has instilled personality and given new life to an abandoned industrial site, to Burkina Faso, where Kéré Architects has created a lively health center in the city of Leo.

L The climate emergency will accelerate this change. Construction is one of the most polluting sectors on the planet: in 2018, 38 percent of energy-related carbon dioxide (CO 2 ) emissions were generated by the sector. An area equivalent to the size of Washington DC is demolished every year in the United States. In Britain, the average commercial building is sentenced for demolition before the age of forty. In 2023, we will see growing outrage over wasteful urban planning.

Individual concerns about the health of the planet will play their part. This year's heatwaves have already led to calls for greener roads. In 2023, the global movement to plant more trees in cities will gain further strength. Green infrastructure will be considered nationally critical, just like energy and transportation, and we will have a tree for every person in every city in the world. In 2023 we will finally begin to combine the creation of places that people can love with the protection of the planet.

The passion for the places that surround us will become the key to designing streets and buildings full of details, innovations and three-dimensionality. These new, more humane spaces will be enjoyed by citizens and will serve locals and tourists alike for many years to come, instead of becoming part of the graveyard of drab structures that have never really mattered to any of us.
This article originally appeared on UK.

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