Category Archives: WIRN

What I’m Reading Now.

Today I have been reading an online PDF, a lit. review prepared for the  Victorian Health Promotion Foundation (Melbourne, AU), The Relationship Between the Built Environment and Wellbeing: a Literature Review, by Iain Butterworth PhD. Butterworth explains, “Built environments that promote social interaction and participation will also afford the development of social networks, social ties, social support, sense of community, community cohesion and competence, and sense of place — all seen as important determinants of community mental well-being.”

Butterworth outlines eight pieces of how the built environment informs our emotional, psychological, and physiological well-being. Butterworth writes, “The built environment provides the setting and backdrop by which we live our lives, and impacts on our senses, our emotions, participation in physical activity and community life, our sense of community, and general wellbeing.”

Commonwealth Department of Health and Aged Care (1999).

Environment and Health

“Places are created and shaped by those in control of resources and with certain interests, which affects our degree of access to, and the way we use, those spaces. People living in particular localities may be prone to particular diseases if the aetiology of that disease is located in the environments in which they live. … Health disadvantage is exacerbated in socially and economically disadvantaged settings.”

Understanding that our relationship to services, facilities, and venues is a part of our well-being is crucial in planning at any scale. Bathrooms in homes are rarely more than a 30 second walk from anywhere in the house, offices can be up to one minute, but public parks often do not have one at all. Distance, walkability, and transportation are all important factors in siting a “space.” Where we are determines the kinds of positive and negative environmental factors we experience, are we breathing in clean air or smog? Location, regulations, and industry are all factors.

Aesthetics of Place

“Spaces, places and buildings are more than just props in people’s lives; they are imbued with meaning and resonance, as they symbolize people’s personal histories, interpersonal relationships, and shared events in people’s extended relationships, families, communities and wider culture.”

Spaces facilitate connection, and connection facilitates diversified interactions which make our life meaningful and dynamic. Some spaces ask us to participate with them, in them, around them, others feel discouraging of this. If interpersonal relationships and shared experience are associated with well-being and happiness how can we facilitate more of this through the aesthetics (not location or clarity) of a space?

Legibility and Orientation

“Humans have a strong drive to make sense of the environment and to be involved with it. We prefer environments that afford us safety, food and shelter. We are also motivated to locate environments where our curiosity will be stimulated, whilst at the same time affording a degree of certainty.”

From a design perspective, the legibility of an environment is assisted in many ways. The design of an entrance, the height and color of signage, the use of drawing and simple imagery, and the spatial organization of the interior and exterior spaces all communicate what the space is and how it wants to be used. Unmarked buildings don’t suggests that they are welcome to random visitors, whereas museums often have many signs and banners that plead you into the space.

Built Form and Sense of Community

“Sense of community has been defined as a feeling that members have of belonging…Sense of community reflects the symbolic interaction in which people engage as they use aspects of the physical environment… sense of community has been found to be enhanced by urban planning that encourages visual coherence, diversity and attractiveness of houses and other buildings; affords sufficient privacy; ensures residents have easy access to amenities, parks, recreation facilities and a town or neighbourhood centre; offers pedestrian-friendly spaces; provides streetscapes so that houses have views of the surrounding neighbourhood; encourages open verandas and low fences in order to encourage social interaction; and restricts motor traffic.”

When talking with Lina Srivastava, she mentioned how often she found public squares to be the happiest spaces because it allowed for any kind of interaction. You could hang out in a cafe, or hangout on the benches near a fountain, or you could play a game of pic-up soccer in a more vacant corner of the square, or you could meet up with friends as an easy meeting place. Unlike a restaurant or home, a public square facilities the ability to have interpersonal connections at any age or of any socio-economic bracket.

Transport and Physical Activity

“The built environment has a direct influence on people’s wellbeing inasmuch as it encourages or inhibits physical activity…Diversity of building design and land use promotes interaction, psychological interest in and attachment to one’s surroundings, a diversity of uses of buildings and space, and thus a diverse range of people who interact in the space spaces whilst pursuing their activities.”

I thought the idea that “diversity of building design” promotes positive interactions and a connection to place that drives people to incorporate space into their activities. Perhaps the design of the walkscape of buildings could also affect how people move through space in a way that positively affects their physicality. Buildings can also intentionally foster connections with transportation, with tunnels that lead to underground transit or special drop off/pick up and bus areas.

Safety and Danger

“Satisfaction with features of the local built environment has been found to play a major role in predicting perceived neighbourhood safety…if a space is unused, then it becomes (perceived as) dangerous, because there is no one else to observe the space and the interactions that occur.”

No space is ever completely safe, but that is not the point. How do we create environments where we feel safe. I think one step is ensuring the well-being of more populations. Generally we don’t seem afraid of our neighbor but rather the unfamiliar and different, through interactions with diverse populations perhaps we can begin dissolving the fear associated with the unfamiliar.

Privacy and Crowding

“People need both privacy and social interaction…Crowding, lack of privacy and control over one’s living space may damage social relationships, incite aggression, abusive behaviour, and substance abuse.”

Sensing this probably led to the development of the open floor plan, a space where interaction can happen from multiple spaces in a larger space and where privacy can be found in “resting” space such as bathrooms and bedrooms (though not always the case).

Participation and Empowerment

“The opportunity to participate in civic life has been identified as a core human need, and essential to the psychological health of individuals and communities. Aspects of the built environment influence participation, in terms of architectural design, population density, and control over environmental stressors; the geographical and built characteristics of a particular district, place or space”

Spaces can not be designed to “make” people vote or participate in their community, but they can facilitate a place that makes people feel safe and welcome and a space where they are encouraged to participate. Butter worth explains, “To create living cities and strengthen civic identity, people need to take an active role in claiming their sense of belonging by cultivating political debate over the quality of the built environment and the culture of cities.”

Space can foster our well-being and happiness but does not define it.

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What I’m Reading Now.

Just the other day  I was at the South Yarra Library and saw Naomi Cleaver’s book, The Joy of Home. I was intrigued by her introduction to the book for she talked about how happiness can be fostered through design, and so I read more and ended up answering 25 questions that she suggests might help people design their homes.

The first chapter of Cleaver’s book is titled First Things First. She writes, “The more questions you ask, the more successful your design will be. In designing a home you first need to define your goals, your principle needs and desires, and the context in which those goals are to be realized.” There are a series of 25 questions that she suggests that one should complete in order to better organize their approach in designing a  “home.” I have listed my answers to some of the questions below as well as the full list of 25 questions.

Cleaver calls the answers a “design brief” that will, “act as a kind of road map to the perfect home for you.” Though I am not currently redesigning a space and still don’t have a space of my own, I approached the questions as though I did have a space to work with. I also approached the questions as an opportunity to better understand my own relationship to what kinds of spaces make me happy. I answered them about residential spaces, so, for example when asked, “How do you like to relax?” I answered the question, “How do you like to relax at home?”

Through the questions I certainly learned more, or perhaps acknowledged more: basically I enjoy spaces that I feel comfy in; spaces that don’t feel too stiff, or too fragile; spaces that feel like they want to be lived in and loved.

There is nothing magical about this set of questions, and while answering some of the questions I felt like I was answering a self-help questionnaire as opposed to a questionnaire about space. But  what I realized is that those questions that felt irrelevant to space asked me to search more deeply into my personal needs and desired in order to really understand my relationship to spaces that work and spaces that don’t.

In choosing images to compliment this post I found that the images of spaces that I am aesthetically attracted to don’t always correlate to my practical interests in a space (a comfy space that I feel like I can live in). When I do get to design my own space, I will have to approach it from the perspective of practicality rather than aesthetics. This is not to say that those spaces that satisfy the practical aspect of happiness for me are aesthetically unappealing, but rather, spaces that I appreciate visually may not be spaces I care to spend time in from a practical point of being comfy and welcome.

What is your favorite room, and why?

Any room with good light, comfy surfaces, a place where I can sit in multiple configurations (formal, cuddled up with a book, work on my computer), and engage in many kinds of activities (art projects, cooking projects, long conversations, dance parties, movie watching).

What is your least favorite room, and why?

I very seldom enjoy home offices, I find that the importance of light and design is often bypassed in favor of organization and generic office supplies with little inherent character. I think offices should still be cozy, light, and organized and should be careful that they don’t get too cluttered with scattered paper and receipts.

How do you relax, and how do you like to relax?

Taking time to cook something yummy, looking at beautiful images in a book, listening to my favorite music, watching a good movie with family and a homemade pizza.

What are your interests, and what would you like to be interested in?

I am interested in wellbeing and design. I see happiness, health, fitness, family, friends as a few of the elements of wellbeing. I see space, objects, starting my own book collection, organization, art, movies, music, and systemization as a few of the elements of design. I also am interested in Koalas and natural bodies of water.

Do you enjoy entertaining, at home? If so, how formal or informal?

I love entertaining at home, and love most of all when my guests are contributors to the event. I like when they bring dishes, the love and traditions, and when they help clean up and do the dishes at the end of the night. I feel that it brings a wonderful sense of collaboration as opposed to showmanship, though I do love to decorate and prepare yummy food for parties.

What is your favorite hotel/restaurant, and why?

My favorite restaurant is the Pelican Inn pub in Marin, CA. It is so cozy inside, and you can stay for hours without being asked to vacate your seat for other patrons, it is one of the few places you can just hang out with friends as if it was your own intimate dinner party (and you can play darts, competition always adds quite the flare to any dinner party).

The Full List of 25:

What is your favorite room, and why?

What is your least favorite room, and why?

How do you relax, and how do you like to relax?

What are your interests, and what would you like to be interested in?

Do you enjoy entertaining, at home? If so, how formal or informal?

Do you have friends or family to stay? If not, would you like to?

If your house were on fire, what three possessions would you grab before escaping?

Would you describe yourself as tidy or untidy?

What are you good at?

What do you wish you were better at?

What is your favorite hotel/restaurant, and why?

What is the best thing you remember about your childhood home?

What is your favorite place in the world, and why?

How would you live if you were not living the way you do now?

What is your favorite color?

What is your least favorite color?

Do you work from home?

Who do you live with and what are there needs?

Who will you live with and what might their needs be?

Do you live in the country or a more urban environment?

Do you work night shifts?

What is your favorite climate or season?

What is your least favorite climate or season?

Is there a crush for the bathroom in the morning?

Do you have difficulty sleeping?

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What I’m Reading Now.

(the) happy spaces project has a total 56 posts, all from the last 11 days. I have been checking out other user-submited blogs to see how they do it. There are four below, please share with me your favorites. (click on the photos to be taken to the blogs)

Cabin Porn, a tumblr that is generated by user submitted images of cabins.


Science Tattoo Emporium, a photo blog run by Carl Zimmer of scientists’ tattoos. Listen to him talk about the book that came from the blog on NPR.

Things Organized Neatly, well is just that, a collection of user submitted images of things that are organized neatly.

Dear Photograph’s images are all from users who have taken a picture of a picture and written a short “letter” to the photograph.

What I’m Reading Now.

While killing time waiting to meet up with a friend in St. Kilda I wandered into the Australian News Shop, Tatts. There I found this wonderful magazine (or paper back book in magazine form really) called Spaces. The spaces are of creative types from all around the world, perhaps why the subtitle is: “where creative people live, work, and play” and was compiled by Frankie magazine.

Frankie magazine is a “national bi-monthly based in Australia, aimed at women (and men) looking for a magazine that’s as smart, funny, sarcastic, friendly, cute, rude, arty, curious and caring as they are. We cover design, art, photography, fashion, travel, music, craft, interiors and real-life stories – we aim to surprise and delight readers with every turn of our beautifully matte pages, and have a good old laugh while doing so.” (frankie’s website)

It was perfect for thinking about this project, the ideas of happiness, curation, and memory all made an appearance throughout the magazine. The images, though all of a certain aesthetic taste (for the most part), all revealed very interesting moments, choices, and sentiments in a space.

I imagined the images and text of this project becoming something printed, and an excitement arose knowing there would be such delightful stories and imagery to choose from, even after only a few weeks in.

Frankie Magazine explains their project this way:

frankie’s project Spaces is a collection of eclectic interiors from around world.This large-format mag explores the homes, studios, shops and cafes of graphic designers, photographers, vintage collectors and shop owners.With a focus on carefully curated style, Spacescelebrates the unique vision and individuality of creative people living everywhere from Melbourne to Amsterdam.



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