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The Critical Role of Architecture in Propelling Human Potential

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

‍Image Credit: © kieferpix | Fotolia


Architectural environments are extensions of the human body and mind. Similarly, the human body and mind becomes an extension of architectural environments. The two are intricately linked. For this reason, the role of design is evermore critical ― particularly as it takes on more interactive and adaptive dimensions. 

For example, a wonderful hospital design can work wonders to not only support, but also to nurture and even guide a patient's recovery (if that hospital design has been properly envisioned and realized).

When it comes to making great architecture, there are two critical elements: creative vision and multi-sensory design. As an architect, the more you work to improve each element, the greater the gains you will find within your resulting design outcome. But what is that outcome all about? Is it simply about landing the next big client? Or creating environments occupants love? What is behind these fantastic results? And what sort of long-term impact is your designed environment making?


Ideally, a well-conceived and well-built architectural environment works because it nurtures and guides growth experiences for occupants. These growth experiences are very important because they are the linchpin between your design and your occupant's ultimate outcome. For example, if a hospital provides a healing growth experience, then patients will heal well there ― going from illness to recovery...and even toward prevention of relapse. Growth experiences are at the core of what a successful architecture provides, whether they are for healing, working, playing, and so on.

As you design your environments it is imperative that you keep the following equation in mind as you design:

(Creative Vision + Sensory Design) Growth Experience = Human Potential

With the latter equation, you can see how together creative vision and sensory design can multiply growth experience, which ultimately all yields human potential. Thus, your architecture has the power to do more than simply meet the programmatic needs that focus on baseline issues. Yes, your environmental designs actually play an important part in throttling the growth experiences of your building occupants. And it is through these growth experiences that human potential can not only be realized, but can also be expanded upon.


To achieve growth experiences, it may not be enough to simply teach occupants a lesson through design. Instead, it is through poetic moments that an architectural design can tap into occupants in very empowering ways. Thus, poetics becomes a critical way to enhance growth for occupants. When design connects with people emotionally, a deeper learning can take place. For instance, a hospital design may guide its patient to exercise as a way to rehabilitate an injured leg. And it can tap into a patient's emotion (positively) to ensure the patient continues to exercise once at home continuing their rehabilitation. In this case, the growth experience helps the patient to tap into "why" they are exercising, so they can emotionally understand the meaning behind what they do. This increases the person's healing potential, and heightens the quality and speed of their recovery.

Of course, healing is only one example of how architectural design can nurture growth experience for occupants. As you design, think carefully about how you can sharpen your creative vision and multi-sensory design methodology to multiply growth experience for your occupants. And yes, doing this will help you to win more new clients and create spaces occupants love ― but you will also be achieving something of equal or even greater will be heightening the potential of your building occupants ― helping them to meet their most desired needs and achieve their most cherished goals .


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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