Why do some people choose oppressive environments?

Why do some people choose oppressive environments?
A tall concave ceiling enhances activities taking place in this grand room, but few people consciously attribute the positive ambience to the geometry / © Nikos A. Salingaros

​The act of building, a man-made transformation of the natural environment is an imposition on nature, necessary for human habitation. The process of assembling architectural and urban form, along with its underlying geometry, can differ radically: either it is inspired by and sympathetic to natural processes, or it is deliberately opposed to them. The difference between natural and artificial is fundamental. Architecture and planning that use unnatural geometric methodologies will inevitably conflict with nature. Often, forms that rely upon visual innovation as their sole inspiration reap acclaim for their architects. Unfortunately, structures that conflict with the processes of nature are ultimately unsustainable.

Traditional design approaches are utilitarian. Their processes and forms arose over generations by selection among natural alternatives, hence they are more sustainable. The most effective designs use evolved energy-saving solutions for building — factoring in local climate, local materials, and knowledge of local customs. Taking this more scientific approach, we can solve, dependably, problems of sustainability and human health.

Some environments soothe and heal; others induce anxiety and illness.

When people complain that our built environment makes them feel uncomfortable, they are dismissed as “old-fashioned” or “unappreciative of contemporary design”. But ordinary people’s reactions are in fact correct. Only architects and other design professionals, after years of conditioning in architecture school and practice, are able to override deeper biological instincts telling them that a structure is hostile (Salingaros, 2014). Architects have long used formal criteria to design and build structures that do not accommodate human sensibilities. They treat criticism by the public as proof that their designs succeed in provocation, which they equate with originality.

The root cause of profound disagreement on architecture between trained architects and the public boils down to whether or not a design embodies living structure (Mehaffy & Salingaros, 2011). Reconciliation on this point is impossible. Living structure is the antithesis of provocative. Like it or not, the search for innovation through provocation renounces life-enhancing environments. And those architects who insist that better education will teach the public to love the same buildings they love, do not understand human nature. […]

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