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Relationship Between Architecture and Human Behaviour: Eldon Building

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Architecture
Wordcount: 3361 words Published: 18th May 2020

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1.0 Introduction

A major issue faced by most architects is the ability of their designs to meet the specifications and comfort of the intended users. And sometimes these can be made more difficult as the attitude, behaviours and psychology of the end users are supposed to be taken into consideration. From the psychology of human behaviour, people are influenced by what they do and what they feel, and so structures in an environment can influence how people think, react and adapt to the environment (Skinner, 2014). This essay explains how the architecture of the Eldon building in the University of Portsmouth influences human behaviour. The essay is divided into three parts; the first section used theories to explain the relationship between architecture and the human behaviour. The second part of the essay introduces the case study ELDON BUILDING and why it was selected for this essay, while the last part of the essay adopts characteristics from Eldon building to explain how the architecture of a building can affect human behaviour.



2.0 Theories that explain the relationship between architecture and human behaviour

According to the definition from the oxford dictionary, Theories are described as a supposition or a system of ideas intended to explain something, especially one based on general principles independent of the thing to be explained and an example is the Darwin theory of evolution. This essay adopts two theories which are the Hannah Arendt theory and the James Gibson’s ecological theory of perception to explain the relationship between architecture and human behaviour. The Hannah Arendt theory states that men are viewed as programmable forces with the capability to influence the environment that they come in contact with and can be conditioned by the nature of their surroundings. Hannah Arendt went further to say and I quote ‘‘whatever touches or enters a sustained relationship with human life immediately assumes the character of a condition of human existence’’        (Mah, 2013). Accordingly, this is the reason why men will always remain conditioned beings because they are always affected by what they do and the environment around them.

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Hannah Arendt went further to justify his theory by stating that, Men do not stand alone as a conditioning force but rather are also conditioned by the objects in their environment which makes up the existence of their well-being. As such, what this means is that there is a mutual relationship between man and their environment which allows man to become a conditioned entity as much as he is the conditioning force, and the environment takes the role of the conditioning force as much as it is the conditioned unit. Another perspective in understanding how individuals react to their environment was explained by the James Gibson in his ecological theory of perception. According to the theory, James Gibson said and I quote ‘’ whereby the observer human or animal productively engages with the environment through movement and visual perception, the environment is no longer perceived as a seen object or ‘thing’. But an ‘Affordance of a stimulus which holds the capacity to offer meaning to the observer, thus stimulating the observer to productively respond and engage with the environment”         (Mah, 2013). What this means is that an object present in a social environment cannot be treated as an abstract entity as they have the potential to affect how individuals interact with their environment (Mah, 2013). It is also interesting to note that Gibson’s theory was derived from a different field of study to that of Arendt’s, but the two theories tend to intertwine in supporting the general perception that individuals are influenced by their built environment. The theories also helped understand how Arendt’s connected the human condition and their built environment which means there is reciprocal relationship between individuals and their environment. Gibson’s theory acknowledges the environment as a stimulus that drives the observer to react to it according to the way the individual perceives it, thus the environment assumes the role of a conditioning force (Mah, 2013). In addition, because movement and the sensory use of vision is fundamental for perception to occur, it can be inferred that Gibson’s observer is always in visual and physical contact with his environment. Hence, reverting to Arendt’s theory, Gibson’s observer, who comes into contact with the environment and is conditioned by it, is also Arendt’s conditioned being. But from an architectural point of view, if there is any doubt on the impact of a built environment on the human psychology or behaviour, it should be noted that all architecture is a careful combination of barriers, apertures, horizontal and vertical planes constructed out of dormant, non-living materials inert and indifferent to the existence of humans and their mentality. Hence, as long as individuals remain influenced by the materials used in an architectural design, so will their behaviours continue to be affected by the built environment around them (Mah, 2013).


3.0 Eldon Building as a case study

Eldon building is located at Winston Churchill avenue, in Portsmouth, UK as shown in Fig 3.1 and was built to be part of a long term strategic plan to foster arts and creativity in the region in conjunction with regional local authorities, businesses and employers, creating a central hub which has diverse talented students at its core. The Eldon building was built as an extension to the existing art building, and was designed by a London based award-winning firm of architects Penoyre & Prasada who were already responsible for the award-winning University library extension. Eldon building is the host to the Faculty of Creative and Cultural Industries (CCI) in the University of Portsmouth with purpose-built facilities which includes a 200 seat cinema quality screening room which doubles as a lecture theatre, a new exhibition space, seven large seminar rooms, an art shop and purpose-built fashion, textiles, architecture and interior design studios. The new 4,600m² building, opened in early 2014, completed a major investment in teaching and learning facilities for students, with a particular focus on the public staging, exhibition and performance of student and external artists work. The development allowed the university to bring together all staff and students engaged within the creative and cultural industries into one physical space, creating a central hub where interdisciplinary creative practise, development and potential can thrive and inspire.

Open-plan offices for academic and administrative staff, and a post-graduate centre are located on the upper floors of the building. The high environmental ambitions for the project presented an ideal opportunity to design a truly exemplar sustainable building. The narrow footprint and atrium, which links all floors vertically, with the stepping back of the floors towards the south and extensive roof lights maximise natural daylight in the building and direct sunlight in the courtyard. A ground source heat pump provides the building with medium grade heat throughout the year, and the target for CO2 consumption is set to 20kg/CO2/m²/annum. Eldon building was selected as a case study in this essay because, the building is a home to all the creative courses, and so this study explains how some of the characteristics of the building can affect the creativity and behaviours of the students.

Fig 3.1 Showing location of Eldon building in Portsmouth (Digimap, 2017)


4.0 Characteristics of the Eldon Building and how it affects human Behaviour

This report postulates three major characteristics to help explain how the architecture of a building can affect human behaviour and the characteristics draws emphasis on the Eldon building. The characteristics includes: the lighting system in a building, sound and acoustics, and Positive and Negative spaces.

4.1 The Lighting system

A good architecture must have a good lighting system. As such, a sustainable lighting system can be achieved using daylighting, efficient lights, and good control. The use of natural daylight is a major step to reducing the building’s energy cost and use. It also boosts productivity and makes the end users happier. In a sustainable design, daylighting is considered as a passive strategy that would cut the lighting load. The reason why an architecture should have a good lighting system is because poor light distribution can lead to disturbance and discomfort to the end users as shown in fig.4.1. The architects Penoyre & Prasadas achieved a good sustainable lighting system in Eldon building by using tall windows and skylights which allows natural daylight into the building and ensures even distribution (Griffiths, 2016) as shown in fig.4.2. The open-plan architecture design studios are well lit which allows the right amount of daylight needed for the students to have focused groups, share ideas and hence improves their productivity. The amount of daylight that enters the building is successfully controlled by the application of the angled aluminium frames that reflects indirect light into the building (Griffiths, 2016) as shown in fig.4.3.

Fig.4.1 A diagram showing an uneven distribution of daylight

Fig.4.2 The plan of the first floor in eldon building showing the location tall windows (Griffiths, 2016)

Fig.4.3 An open-plan studio showing how daylight enters the building (Griffiths, 2016)

4.2 Sound and Acoustics

The purpose of room acoustical design is to control the propagation, reflection and attenuation of sound within a space (Remes, 2015). In rooms for speech, such as classrooms and auditoriums, it is important to ensure a satisfactory level of sound spreading, whereas rooms for concentrated work require a prominent level of absorption. In most creative buildings, open learning spaces are often used instead of traditional classrooms. therefore, the acoustic environment in the spaces is characterised by good listening and speech comfort, as well as privacy as teaching is based on group work. An essential acoustic criterion, however, is the privacy between the groups. This is because, most of the work is done in groups which are why the speech and listening comfort within short distances or within the group is of importance. Eldon building has large open plan architecture studios which have been divided into smaller sections by movable partition wall which also act as sound barriers. This is done to enable privacy between the groups spread among the studios to some extent. The architect was also able to achieve a satisfactory level of sound control between floors by applying acoustic insulation in the ceiling of each floor as shown in fig.4.4. This helped the students properly adapt to their environment as the controlled level of sound made the studios comfortable to work in. The relationship between the controlled noise environment and the students in the Eldon building also helps explain Hannah Arendt theory which states ‘’man is a programmable force that is influenced by his /her environment” (Mah, 2013).  Fig 4.4 Showing the acoustic in the ceiling of the 3rd floor (Griffiths, 2016)



4.3 Positive and Negative Spaces

It is important in architecture and particularly for public buildings such as universities, hospitals or conference centres to pay attention in providing alternatives route to any navigational decision (Bag, 2012). In Eldon building, there are different exit route located around the building that can be used to get to any destination. This helps improve circulation by preventing dead ends in the building and thereby promoting the user’s exploration activities, making it easy to operate within the mental representation of the building in respect to the levels above and vertical information in general. In Eldon building, the spaces on each floor are flexible which can be delightful to the mind and sometimes something mysterious to enjoy. An example is the architecture studios in Eldon building which are opened plan spaces divided by movable partition walls, which is quite flexible to use as shown in fig.4.5.

Fig 4.5 Showing the open plan architecture studio (Griffiths,2016)





5.0 Conclusion

To some designers, the environment is seen as a container for human activity and that is what they call its function. But, it is recognized by architects that one of the impacts of architectural design is to create special layouts which contributes to activity patterns, and behaviours required by a set of building users. This involves an understanding of human movement patterns, physical dimensions and above all usability of spaces for territory and settings for interactions among people (Altman, 1975). Despite the problems created by new forms of adaptability, architects who believe that the user should be able to control what he does within a given physical setting continue to develop new forms of adaptability and to make old forms more efficient. In this report, characteristics in the Eldon Building was used to explain the relationship between the human behaviour and their built environment. After careful review of how the Eldon Building was built, it can be said that the architects that constructed the building considered the set of end-users (which were mostly creative students) in the technique used to achieve proper lighting, the acoustics used to control the sound, and how effective spaces were created around the building.





















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