How are architecture and psychology related?

Spaces and people share a fundamental connection – one that possibly affects the human mind in unimaginable ways. Your immediate environment affects the way you feel, function and is an extension of your mind. Understanding the response to spaces we inhabit regularly and observing its effect on our mental health might be the first step towards collective psychological stability.

Architectural designs may not achieve their purpose in the absence of a thorough understanding of human behavior. How do factors such as natural light, colors, spatial arrangement, and safety affect design? This might reveal the reasons why and how we feel in a certain built environment.

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A simple act of introducing a positive color or improving the lighting conditions can make a world of difference to a space.

Why is it crucial to design emotionally comfortable spaces?

      –       The built environment impacts our moods, emotions, thoughts, and actions. A healthy setting is important because it ensures better performance, increased enthusiasm, comfort, and a great state of mind.

      –       The experiences of physical environments are likely to insinuate diverse effects on people of the same office or room. Building flexible spaces that can be personalized by different occupants work wonders in a complex environment. This is possible only through mutual understanding between designers and psychologists.

      –      There is nothing more important than building spaces that are emotionally satisfying at this point in time where every other person is going through mental turbulence.

What is the role of space, light, and color in built spaces?

Architecture has the power to elevate the way people feel, live, and think. Defining the function of built spaces with conscious planning and meeting the user’s requirement is how designers can make use of this power and design effectively. 

The contribution of space

The layout of a space defines the flow from one point to another, telling the occupants where to look, what to observe, and when to pause. It’s important to consider both the function and the emotions that you want to evoke when designing spaces. Currently, most designers aim to create spaces that explore our senses and look for ways to stimulate our surroundings.

Visual cues

They have an impact on the subconscious mind and instill emotional safety in people. These cues can be incorporated into design layouts or decor elements that convey a visual message. They can be decorative, symbolic, directional, and informative. For instance, a design solution to convey the location of the washroom or the presence of a staircase within a distance helps the mind be at ease. 

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Activating a space
Through thoughtful design interactions can set the vibe of a space. They offer an opportunity for people to pause and interact with an area, observe the visual content around like artwork, a dedicated indoor green space, a reading nook, posters, and a photo gallery. Additionally to creating a sense of purpose for people, activating a space is a great way to observe their behavior through visual storytelling, especially in a professional environment. This improves engagement, provides better experiences, and enables emotional safety for the occupants. 


Creating spaces where occupants feel safe, free, included, heard, and appreciated forms a strong relationship with the environment. This makes them feel safer and motivates them to be productive. Architects must design spaces or refurbish old ones to accommodate an environment that provides comfort in all forms to the users. This can include a balcony space to think better, a gathering area for discussions, secluded work pods to function better, a rooftop cafeteria for work breaks, an inquiry center, and more. These features make people feel comfortable and help designers to understand how to cater to evolving needs. 

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What does lighting bring to the table?

Lighting in architecture has a massive influence on the emotional well-being of people. The quality of light defines a space and shapes perceptions of the built environment. It affects our mood, comfort, thought process and indicates if the space is safe for us. Planned lighting allows us to appreciate and experience the aesthetic of a space. Natural or artificial lighting highlights colors, textures, and forms of a space, enabling architecture to satiate its purpose. 

Have you ever noticed how a quaint cafe with subtle lighting calms you down or how changing the lighting in your room elevates your mood or how you feel drained out while working in the corner office? It is due to the experience you feel within the environment and how it affects the way you function.

It is crucial to understand the purpose of a space and its emotional impact on occupants before deciding on the lighting. This is where designers establish how they want people to feel around a space. Studies have shown that an overly illuminated space can be intimidating and can exaggerate emotions, inadequate light can cause lethargy, and diffused light works best in most cases ensuring emotional stability.

As a result, people are more productive, experience less stress, and experience less anxiety. For instance, in a theatre, diffused lighting is needed in the interior, but the pathway leading to it needs to be illuminated so that occupants of the theater feel safe.

High-end retail stores need bright outdoor lighting to draw attention, and similar indoor lighting to make the products visible. Low light works well for corridors and diffused light works well for cafes. 

The source of light is another important aspect that can affect how you feel. Direct light causes discomfort, light above our eye level works in a formal setting, and light below our eye level creates comfort and works in a casual environment. 

How does color affect our mental health?

The psychology of colors is the effect that colors have on our emotional state of mind and behavior. Depending on the context of the space and the emotions designers want to evoke, a color palette is chosen. The combination of colors and lighting conditions sets the tone of a space. For instance, pastel green with optimum natural light is often used in hospitals as it helps in calming the patients. Using a yellow highlighter wall with muted colors on the rest and diffused lighting can create an inviting atmosphere in living rooms. Dark colors and low lighting encourage customers to stay longer in restaurants.

Understanding the value of this relationship and its ability to improve our living spaces, architects and psychologists must consider working together to formulate solutions for creating better buildings. Thoughtfully designed spaces are no longer an option, but a necessity – one that can enrich experiences and help society cope with mental illness. Further case studies and research can create innovations that suggest evolved design solutions with substantial results.



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