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Integrate a Community Place to Better Connect Your Occupants

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

Image Credit: © La Citta Vita | Flickr

What will turn your architecture from merely being a place that people go to, into a place that people feel attached to — a space where they have made a connection and one that is meaningful? Many theories exist and contribute to what can make a place…well, more than a “place”.

In reading the article entitled What makes neighborhood different from home and city? Effects of place scale on place attachment, I found that this study determined that scale plays a large role when it comes to predicting and creating place attachment for those that experience it. So, this leads me to consider this notion of scale and its meaning for you, as an architect, when it comes to designing architectural spaces that attract — versus just standing to exist.

My personal notion about “spaces of attachment” also brings up the aspects of socialization. I deem that providing a community place within your architectural designs is important. The way in which your occupants interact not only with the architecture, but with each other is paramount. And I think this is a major player when it comes to building a place that will foster and promote occupant attachment.

Using Principles of Scale to Promote Better Occupant Connections

Scale is relative. You can look at what I will call “macro-scales” like cities, versus neighborhoods, versus individual buildings. Or you can look at more “micro-scales” like a building, versus a room, versus a transitional space. Again, scale is relative — not only when it comes to size of the space, but also when it comes to how many people inhabit that space and how they interact within it.

In the article which I previously mentioned, it was found that neighborhoods actually yield the largest inhabitant attachment (compared to city or home/apartment). So why might this be? For starters, I think that in a neighborhood you have the best of both worlds. You have a place to call your own and to retreat to, but you also have collective areas which you share, maintain and within which you can commune, socialize and interact with your neighbors.

Key reasons that neighborhoods foster meaningful occupant attachments can stem from design techniques which are seemingly simple — like providing variety, an influx of person-to-person interaction, having different private and public areas, balancing built from with nature, giving individual choice and freedom to create their own “space” within the whole, giving the collective of inhabitants responsibility to work together to make the overall “place” nice, providing spaces for contemplation, for play, for gathering and so on.

In short, all of these design elements are variations that go into the scale of place. And most all of these elements also involve great attention to socialization — whether it is a one-on-one interaction or a group-to-group interaction.

I challenge you to design an architecture that better promotes occupant attachment. It can become a building that is more than a sum of its parts, able to reach out to its inhabitants by bringing them together in new, yet novel, ways.

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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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