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Aesthetics, Well-Being and Health; Essays Within Architecture and Environmental Aesthetics. (Uses of Psychology?).

Edited by Birgit Cold. Aldershot: Ashgate. 2002. [pounds sterling]45

The arts are not based on rational thought but there is a whole range of critical writing that examines artistic activity and output.

Architecture is about making useful buildings and it involves a rational approach to the needs of society, its users, and the technology of production. At the same time we expect to enrich our lives by giving artistic experience.

Perhaps we should accept that architecture is both technology and art without attempting to reconcile the artistic and scientific values.

The rational aspect of building is more important than the technical aspects of other arts and we should improve our understanding of the way we perceive the buildings we design if we can.

I have always been interested in psychology as being relevant to my work designing buildings and so I looked forward to reading this book. It is an academic research based set of papers written by architects, psychologists, and a few sociologists. References to previous research are given so it will be possible to follow up the points being made.

Understanding people is very difficult and we are not yet able to bridge the gap between our day-to-day rich emotional life and a set of scientific explanations about the way we behave. So priests and dynamic psychologists who deal with day-to-day behaviour are not able to use the findings of scientists who are trying to understand the mind.

Similarly in this book, the rational approach cannot help the designers and planners who have to cope with the everyday problems of deciding what needs to be built immediately. The Construction Industry Council have approached the problem of rationalizing design decisions by publishing Design Quality Indicators. There is little justification for these but they do enable numbers to be applied to designs.

Here again, where the thinking gets relevant to design issues, it loses rigour and where rigour is apparent the findings are less applicable to design. I had vaguely hoped that some archetypes with strong forms such as the Mandala might be discovered to form a justification for formal architecture and also justify ideas of proportion and the Golden Mean. These ideas are too much in fringe psychology to find a place in this book that errs on the serious side of architecture.
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Author:Fordham, Max
Publication:The Architectural Review
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jun 1, 2002
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