How do you feel about the boxes in this image?
How we can use the link between human psychology and the built environment to enhance the mental health of those in urban areas
I was inspired to start this project when I got lost in the confusing Square Shopping Centre in Tallaght. Upon research, I discovered that it was all by design, that the confusing layout of the building was intended to mislead in order to encourage consumers to spend more time there. The design of space can therefore shape how we act. As the urban population continues to increase (set to reach seventy-five per cent globally by 2050), more and more of our lives will be determined by the design of our built environment. In my project, I decided to find out how the general public interprets the spatial issues they generally face and what solutions might respond to these concerns.
I conducted two cross-sectional surveys of the Irish general public and two taped structured interviews with an architect and an engineer. The surveys were conducted online, via a SurveyMonkey link and distributed by social media and the St Mary’s College online app. In print, surveys were distributed to several locations throughout Arklow town and beyond, such as the local library and county council office. The first survey received 389 responses and the second one received 296 responses, equalling 683 overall. I used the SPSS software package to create my graphs and to perform a Chi squared analysis of the data. I interviewed Sophia Meer, a professor in the UCD School of Architecture, Urban Planning and Environmental Policy, and Ciarán McCabe, an engineer from Metec in Bray.
The results demonstrated that the majority of respondents had considered the effect of the built environment on their personal wellbeing, with many finding urban areas to be overstimulating. The vast majority, almost ninety percent, felt that better urban planning would provide a solution to at least some of these problems. Of the seven options given, respondents determined that more green space would be most beneficial. However, it should be noted that the majority of respondents were satisfied with the amount of green space in their own areas. A more detailed analysis showed that it was not the size of the green space, but the quality of it that was in question. Respondents felt that green spaces needed variety; they didn’t want open fields but versatile spaces with plants, seating, running tracks, artwork, and playgrounds. The suggestions from the professionals interviewed were very similar to that of the public, with a particular emphasis placed on building community through open space. When people were shown an image of poor urban planning (the Luas boxes on College Green) the response was overwhelmingly negative. This would indicate that even very small examples of poor urban planning can have a significant effect on public perception.