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How to Design Architecture that Helps Occupants Achieve Goals

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

‍Image Credit: © Sasint | Pixabay


What if architecture’s function was not only to meet a need, but to also help its occupants to achieve a longer-term goal? For example, a person may want to exercise more to increase health, or they may want to create an amazing presentation to win a big project at work. Can environments actually help occupants with such goals? Yes, I believe they can – and the following are a few examples of how this can be possible…

EXAMPLE 1: THE FUN GYM – I recently read an article describing how certain new gyms are being equipped with “cinema-scale video screens” that create an immersive exercise experience. (1) This type of environment goes well beyond simply providing a video clip of a road to run or cycle upon. Instead, this type of immersive gym gives its visitors an experience like no other. For example, gym-goers can exercise through a “Blade Runner-esque” environment of the future. (1) With such film technologies converging with gym spaces, it becomes possible to motivate, peak curiosity, and reward hard work to inspire, facilitate, and guide greater and better exercise.

EXAMPLE 2: THE WINNING OFFICE – An office can be designed to help a worker create winning solutions, presentations, and communications for their project. For example, environmental stimuli can be filtered in real-time to help an occupant to intellectually, physiologically, and emotionally enter the most optimal mental, physical, and emotional state within which to create, present, or communicate. Through adaptive abilities, such an office environment, can change lighting, information, acoustic, and even olfactory qualities to help inspire, position, and evoke the most optimal mood for creation of a project idea, for the delivery of a presentation via online connection with a client, or simply for the answering of emails and other correspondence that need attention. In this case, the “winning office” personalizes itself to create an environment that is most conducive to helping workers reach their highest performance levels.


Both examples above show how environments can be created to not only boost their occupant’s performance, but to also increase likelihood of success in achieving their ultimate goal. By seeing architecture as a place that is used repeatedly, but in different ways, designers can leverage architectural technology’s ability to help personalize places. As such, the deterrents which hinder people from reaching their goals can be eliminated – just as the “fun gym” eliminates boredom which often prevents people from exercising. Similarly, these more personalized environments can go further to evoke the optimal mental, physical, and emotional states to help occupants perform at their best.

The key is to think about environments as more than where experiences just happen. Instead, think about environments as places where goals are achieved.


(1)    Oglethorpe, Alice. (2018) Take the Hell Out of Healthy. Oprah Magazine. P. 64


what members are saying...
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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