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Factoring Crowd Mentality Into Your Building’s Exterior Spaces

By Maria Lorena Lehman — Get more articles like this sent to your email HERE.

Image Credit: © Averain | Flickr

Have you ever thought about how crowd mentality factors into architectural design? Well, as you can see in the photo of the Spanish Steps, there is a prime example of crowd mentality, showing what happens when a simple factor like sunlight enters the picture. Do you notice how most of the people are sitting in the shade? And have you ever thought about analyzing your building design and its site in these terms?

The exterior areas of your building design are not just “blank” masses of area that are used the same throughout. Instead you may like to think of them as exterior “rooms” where factors like light, temperature, noise, smell, texture or even wind can have a significant effect. So for instance, you may design and exterior plaza, but it may not be used in the same way throughout. Additionally, it may be used much differently from the way you originally intended.

And of course, there are those times where exterior elements just outside of buildings are used by skateboarders to perform a trick or even simply by a person trying to find the quick seat. And then you have to wonder, did the designer intended for these uses? Or where these uses mere byproducts of a different vision than the designer had?

So, when you begin to design the way your building interacts with its surrounding urban-scape, consider functionalities as they may actually be used outdoors. For some reason, it seems that a seat indoors would most usually be used as a seat. Whereas a concrete seat outdoors could be used as a skateboard ramp, a table, a stage, or even a desk.

I would say the crowd mentality in exterior spaces have an ability to adapt that is quite different from the way people adapt when inside a building. There are a different set of conditions outdoors, prompting people to engage a bit differently around the built forms which surround them. And often those behaviors can spread from person to person — just as an idea can go viral.

Be sure to consider the many dimensions to your exterior building designs. Consider how different people might see them from different perspectives, and for different uses. Understand which uses you are trying to promote. And also understand where you wish to design an inherent “freedom”, where people may behave in a multitude of ways.

Such techniques will give your design and added layer of sophistication, all because you factor in crowd mentality to make the exterior of your designs just as meaningful as their interiors.

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Maria: I came across your website through a reference in today's Architect Weekly ezine and am delighted I did. I'll bookmark your site and check back often. I read the first article and then the second and thirty minutes later realized how much time had passed. I've been practicing for thirty years and have always missed the stimulation of academia. I find each of your brief dissertations sort of like a day in design studio. Thanks for the inspiration.

Ron Ward
AI Group Design
I am excited to see you touch a vein of values in architecture, I have been chasing myself for years. Your depth of involvement in these very deep subjects is really beautiful and passionately dealt with and well written. Sound, color and value, shape, texture, scale, smell.... all definitive measures of the spaces we should be alert to. [...] I will savor the rest of your investigation of sensuality in architecture. I'm Glad I found you.

Dennis McLaughlin
McLaughlin Architect
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Maria Lorena Lehman is a multi award-winning visionary author, designer, and educator from the United States. Maria holds a Bachelor of Architecture with Honors from Virginia Tech and a Master in Design with Distinction from Harvard University Graduate School of Design. CLICK HERE to learn more.

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