In designing and constructing environments in which people live and work, architects and planners are necessarily involved in influencing human behaviour. While Sommer 1969, p.3 asserted that the architect “in his training and practice, learns to look at buildings without people in them,” it is clear that from, for example, Howard’s Garden Cities of To-morrow 1902, through Le Corbusier’s Ville Contemporaine and La Ville radieuse, to the Smithsons’ ‘Streets in the sky’, there has been a long-standing thread of recognition that the way people live their lives is directly linked to the designed environments in which they live. Whether the explicit intention to influence behaviour drives the design process—architectural determinism Broady, 1966: see future blog post ‘POSIWID and determinism’—or whether the behaviour consequences of design decisions are only revealed and considered as part of a post-occupancy evaluation e.g. Zeisel, 2006 or by social scientists or psychologists studying the impact of a development, there are links between the design of the built environment and our behaviour, both individually and socially.
Where there is an explicit intention to influence behaviour, the intended behaviours could relate for example to directing people for strategic reasons, or providing a particular ‘experience’, or for health and safety reasons, but they are often focused on influencing social interaction. Hillier et al 1987, p.233 find that “spatial layout in itself generates a field of probabilistic encounter, with structural properties that vary with the syntax of the layout.” Ittelson et al 1974, p.358 suggest that “All buildings imply at least some form of social activity stemming from both their intended function and the random encounters they may generate. The arrangement of partitions, rooms, doors, windows, and hallways serves to encourage or hinder communication and, to this extent, affects social interaction. This can occur at any number of levels and the designer is clearly in control to the degree that he plans the contact points and lanes of access where people come together. He might also, although with perhaps less assurance, decide on the desirability of such contact.”