The Shaping of Us: How Everyday Spaces Structure Our Lives, Behavior, and Well-Being

The Shaping of Us: How Everyday Spaces Structure Our Lives, Behavior, and Well-Being

by Lily Bernheimer


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The spaces we inhabit– from homes and workspaces to city streets—mediate community, creativity, and our very identity. Using insights from environmental psychology, design, and architecture, The Shaping of Us shows how the built and natural worlds subtly influence our behavior, health, and personality. Exploring ideas such as “ruin porn” and “ninja-proof seating,” mysteries of how we interact with the physical spaces around us are revealed. From caves and cathedrals to our current housing crisis and the dreaded open-plan office, Lily Bernheimer demonstrates that, for our well-being, we must reconnect with the power to shape our spaces.

Have you ever wondered why we adorn our doorframes with moldings? What does Wikipedia’s open-source technology have to teach us about the history and future of urban housing? What does your desk say about your personality?

From savannahs and skyscrapers to co-working spaces, The Shaping of Us shows that the built environment supports our well-being best when it echoes our natural habitats in some way. In attempting to restore this natural quality to human environments, we often look to other species for inspiration. The real secret to building for well-being, Bernheimer argues, is to reconnect humans with the power to shape our surroundings. When people are involved in forming and nurturing their environments, they feel a greater sense of agency, community, and pride, or “collective efficacy.” And when communities have high rates of collective efficacy, they tend to have less litter, vandalism, and violent crime.

Playful and accessible, The Shaping of Us is a delightful read for designers, professionals, and anyone wanting to understand how spaces make us tick and how to fix the broken bits of our world.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781595348722
Publisher: Trinity University Press
Publication date: 06/15/2019
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 1,196,742
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

Lily Bernheimer is a researcher, writer, and consultant in environmental psychology. She is founding director of Space Works Consulting, with offices in the United States and the United Kingdom, which aims to make everyday spaces work for the people and purposes they serve. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Table of Contents

Preface v

Introduction 1

The Woonerf, the Stoplight, and the Roundabout 11

The Laweiplein paradox and the petrified wood principle

The Defeat of the Ninja-Proof Seat 36

The Hawthorne effect, personal space bubbles, and the open-plan office

Why We Dream about Houses and Cry about Wind Farms 72

NIMBYism, the high-rise, and the housing crisis

A Truman Show for Dementia Patients 109

Savannahs, snakes, and the mystery novel model

The Tale of Midwest and Yoredale 144

LEGO(s), frontier psychology, and acting basketball game'

The Ruin Porn Phenomenon 179

Detroit, fractal aesthetics, and The Timeless Way of Building

The Big Fix 218

From lab rats and rational choice to resilient cities

The Shape of Things to Come 253

Half a house, WikiHouse, and the IKEA effect

Acknowledgments 292

Notes 294

Index 315

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