User Tag List

123 Last

Results 1 to 10 of 27

  1. #1
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Posts
    4,226

    Default Why boring cities make for stressed citizens

    Streets with no game

    Boring cityscapes increase sadness, addiction and disease-related stress. Is urban design a matter of public health?

    In 2007, the Whole Foods supermarket chain built one of their largest stores on New York City’s storied Lower East Side, occupying an entire block of East Houston Street from the Bowery to Chrystie Street. For the well-off, the abundant availability of high-quality organic foods was a welcome addition, but for the majority of locals, many of whom had roots going back generations to New York’s immigrant beginnings, the scale of the new store, selling wares that few of them could easily afford, was a symbolic affront to the traditions of this part of the city.

    When I conducted research at the site in 2011, my interest was more pedestrian: how did this megastructure – plopped into a neighbourhood populated with tiny bars and restaurants, bodegas, pocket parks, playgrounds and many different styles of housing – influence the psychological state of the urban pedestrian? What happens inside the minds of city-dwellers who turn out of tiny, historic restaurants with bellies full of delicious knish and encounter nothing but empty sidewalk beneath their feet, a long bank of frosted glass on one side, and a steady stream of honking taxicabs on the other?

    To find the answer, I led small groups from site to site and had them answer questions that assessed their emotional state via a smartphone. At the same time, I had participants wear bracelets that measured their skin conductance – a simple but reliable window into their alertness, readiness to act, pay attention or respond to threat.

    One of the sites in the study was midway along the long, blank façade of Whole Foods Market. A second site was a few steps away, in front of a small but lively strip of restaurants and stores with lots of open doors and windows, a happy hubbub of eating and drinking and a pleasantly meandering mob of pedestrians.

    Some of the results were predictable. When planted in front of Whole Foods, my participants stood awkwardly, casting around for something of interest to latch on to and talk about. They assessed their emotional state as being on the wrong side of ‘happy’ and their state of arousal was close to bottoming out. The physiological instruments strapped to their arms showed a similar pattern. These people were bored and unhappy. When asked to describe the site, words such as
    bland, monotonous and passionless rose to the top of the charts.

    In contrast, people standing at the other test site, less than a block away from Whole Foods, felt lively and engaged. Their own assessments of their states of arousal and affect were high and positive. The words that sprang to their minds were
    mixed, lively, busy, socialising and eating. Even though this site was so crowded with pedestrians that our participants struggled to find a quiet place to reflect on our questions, there was no doubt that this location was to their liking on many levels. In fact, even though we didn't have the equipment to measure such things effectively, we could read the telltale signs of happiness or misery on our participants’ bodies as they worked to complete the study. In front of the blank façade, people were quiet, stooped and passive. At the livelier site, they were animated and chatty, and we had some difficulty reining in their enthusiasm. Our experimental protocol, requiring that participants not talk to one another while recording their responses, quickly went by the wayside. Many expressed a desire to leave the tour and simply join in the fun of the place.

    ...

    Why would anyone think it a good idea to build a large, featureless building at ground level? What motivates a developer to erect an endless stretch of suburban housing where each individual unit is identical and, in the language of information theory, low in entropy?

    One obvious part of the equation, especially for suburban developments, is the economic one. It’s much less expensive to design only three or four different models of houses.

    But what about our larger institutional buildings? Why build a closed, ground-level façade that will bore passersby? Perhaps the owners of such properties don’t see much to gain: it hardly seems in the best interests of a major bank to attract a crowd of happy lingerers to the fronts of their buildings, rather than serious customers who get in and get out again. A friendly façade might also be less in keeping with the image that the business wants to portray. We might want the bank looking after our assets to be a quiet, brooding, impenetrable fortress, rather than part of a whimsical and lively street market.


    I was thinking about this last night on my way home, having a conversation with a guy I went to university with. He and I sometimes take the same bus home, and our conversation veered toward how empty some of the streets in the city seem. What prompted the conversation was an apparent increase in the number of vacant storefronts and the state of the local economy, which veered into a discussion about the wisdom of giving developers incentives to build ground-floor retail in their new commercial and condo buildings despite there being little market for the extra space, and finally to how the sorts of eclectic retailers that make a street interesting are priced out of the market because of the egregious rents being charged for these empty storefronts. Instead the spaces are filled with banks if they're filled at all; banks need somewhere to conduct their business and it's convenient as a customer to have a branch nearby but they tend to have monolithic designs that are not inviting whatsoever. Everything about the design of a bank tends to subconsciously say "keep out".

    I didn't quote the entire article; it goes on to discuss the work of a pair of architects who 20 years ago argued "the generic city" is coming due to mass immigration and globalization. One of them, a Dutch architect by the name of Rem Koolhaas, said in a 2011 interview:

    "In an age of mass immigration, a mass similarity of cities might just be inevitable. [Cities such as Dubai, where the majority of residents are immigrants,] function like airports in which the same shops are always in the same places. Everything is defined by function, and nothing by history. This can also be liberating."

    This can also have negative psychological effects on the people who live and work there (making them feel bored and miserable), as the author's research shows.



    What do you think? Do you experience this?
    Likes windoverlake, Ghost, Vasilisa liked this post

  2. #2
    Senior Member ceecee's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2008
    MBTI
    INTJ
    Enneagram
    8w9
    Posts
    9,408

    Default

    How interesting. I'm betting I have experienced this but I'd be hard pressed to give the specific place or details. So much design is aesthetically blah but I never thought much about how it impacts me mentally and physically. I probably will now.
    I like to rock n' roll all night and *part* of every day. I usually have errands... I can only rock from like 1-3.
    Likes windoverlake liked this post

  3. #3
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Jul 2014
    MBTI
    INFP
    Posts
    614

    Default

    Meh. I worked for many years in Washington DC down in the business district. Lots of bland buildings and big glass or brick structures taking up entire blocks. It was a bore to walk those streets, but that was fine with me. I was just getting from point A to point B. I wasn't looking to be entertained.

    If I wanted a circus or party atmosphere, I would head over to Adams Morgan or Dupont Circle or Georgetown. If I was in those neighborhoods, then I would soak in the atmosphere and dawdle and maybe stop in the small shops for an iced tea or a beer or something.

    I totally agree that architecture affects mood. But overall I'm fine with business neighborhoods being a bore. Seems like overkill to insist that every street give off a rollicking party atmosphere or a circus vibe or a cozy residential feel. Frankly, that cutesy fun stuff gets in the way when you're just trying to get from point A to point B.

    What *is* genuinely depressing is a bombed-out ghetto/Depression look: Abandoned storefronts, crumbling facilities, broken glass and trash in empty lots. In such cases I'm all in favor of a little urban renewal.

  4. #4
    noʎ ɟo ǝʇnɔ ʍoH Mademoiselle's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2014
    MBTI
    -NTJ
    Enneagram
    5w4
    Posts
    928

    Default

    Urban planning is all about community, but sadly greed and lack of knowledge led many great cities die.
    I do agree, every city should be especially designed for the community to be comfortable and healthy, and there's no such a thing as the perfect city, because every community has different people, different culture, ideals, beliefs and all the other numbers and informations that decided people's needs.
    A good city is which has room for every person living there, are they mostly young, old, their religious beliefs and life style.

    However, there are certain things are standard like must haves in every city, sustainability is one, for that urban planners are constantly seeking new methods, the latest is neourbanism, a realistic green solution .
    But it's installation is not easy for most cities has a lot of mistakes and failure, many important things were ignored while constructed long ago.

    This is why new cities are better looking, creating skyscrapers is easer thank correcting narrow roads, the world desperately needs more cities, but it's not affordable in every country, which leaves us to the cheap efferent solutions like street art, and DIY decorations.
    Unless some passionate urban planners creat a project and do awesome works to later get supported by donation, improve the city and motivate the government.
    Likes SearchingforPeace liked this post

  5. #5
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Posts
    4,226

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Mademoiselle View Post
    This is why new cities are better looking
    Are they?

  6. #6
    noʎ ɟo ǝʇnɔ ʍoH Mademoiselle's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2014
    MBTI
    -NTJ
    Enneagram
    5w4
    Posts
    928

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by 93JC View Post
    Are they?
    When new = 20th century.
    And old = ancient
    Imagine this is the best thing you've ever read.

  7. #7
    Suave y Fuerte BadOctopus's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2014
    MBTI
    INTJ
    Enneagram
    5w4 sp/sx
    Posts
    3,274

    Default

    This explains why Portland is a fairly laid-back city.

    I guess it could also be all the pot.
    Likes Hard liked this post

  8. #8
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Posts
    4,226

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Mademoiselle View Post
    When new = 20th century.
    And old = ancient
    Do you have an example of a "better-looking" 20th century city? I can't think of one off the top of my head.

  9. #9
    LL P. Stewie Beorn's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Posts
    4,730

    Default

    Yeah, we've largely been building shit for the last 75 years. The relationship between humans and architecture and design has totally been ignored. The most frustrating part is that it's not that hard to do human-centered design but it can be expensive. Unfortunately we live in a society where a developers want to get in out with their money as soon as possible and don't really think about the long term impacts on the community.

    I've probably posted this a few times here, but it's directly relevant.
    Take the weakest thing in you
    And then beat the bastards with it
    And always hold on when you get love
    So you can let go when you give it

  10. #10
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    May 2015
    MBTI
    INFJ
    Posts
    407

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by 93JC View Post
    Do you have an example of a "better-looking" 20th century city? I can't think of one off the top of my head.
    I don't know about "better-looking", but Las Vegas is one 20th century city.

Similar Threads

  1. Why MBTI is Death for Society
    By Ginkgo in forum Myers-Briggs and Jungian Cognitive Functions
    Replies: 147
    Last Post: 06-05-2014, 06:02 AM
  2. [INFJ] Seeking Feedback for Stress Relief.
    By Quiet in forum The NF Idyllic (ENFP, INFP, ENFJ, INFJ)
    Replies: 20
    Last Post: 04-12-2010, 10:08 PM
  3. Would you rather have a boring job or a stressful job?
    By sofmarhof in forum The Fluff Zone
    Replies: 16
    Last Post: 01-07-2010, 07:35 AM
  4. Why I'm voting for McCain
    By Lateralus in forum Politics, History, and Current Events
    Replies: 20
    Last Post: 06-06-2008, 02:59 AM
  5. [ISFJ] Support for Stressed ISFJ
    By Buds of May in forum The SJ Guardhouse (ESFJ, ISFJ, ESTJ, ISTJ)
    Replies: 13
    Last Post: 05-22-2008, 04:02 PM

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
Single Sign On provided by vBSSO