New Sociology how Buildings can Affect the way People Act

Anyone who has gone on tours of European and American sites has felt the change in their own behavior, mood and activity when entering and leaving certain buildings. The awe, reverence and restriction of noise and activity when entering the great museums and cathedrals is in direct opposition to the elevated mood, more free speaking style and jubilant behavior when entering a packed, lively pub or restaurant.

Some buildings are designed or are constructed in a way that discourages all but the most necessary interaction. Buildings that have large sections of blank wall and concrete at ground level create large, isolated and unwelcoming areas that discourage foot traffic. Some cities, such as Denver, Colorado have taken measures to open up the bottom levels of these discouraging buildings by creating ground level spaces for shops and restaurants, with shuttle buses and pedestrian walks. This change revitalized and repopulated downtown that was previously dead and empty during the weekends and after work hours.

Buildings, by their very nature and use, will definitely serve to moderate the mood, behavior and actions of most people. Hospitals as opposed to malls; courthouses as opposed to the halls of education; and even some houses as opposed to others have deliberately designed features that help to moderate behavior through their visual impressions, purpose, colors, decoration and functional environments.

Graffiti artists, gang members and vandals see buildings as their canvases or message boards, and will seek out the choicest spots to engage in various forms of expressive behavior. Homeless people will use certain buildings as places of shelter or to seek help or money, whether the building is intended for that purpose or not.

Some buildings represent a lifetime of desire to travel to a distant place and to actually see a famous place in person. The great sites are modified and enhanced in order to encourage exploration of the spaces through guided or self guided tours, resulting in elevated expressions of curiosity and active exploration as the most likely behaviors. Often, however, the rigors of getting to and through such places can also result in expressions of impatience and irritability from fatigue, illness, bickering with travel companions who express lack of enthusiasm, and for other reasons. When many travellers are involved, the buildings attract predatory, criminal or profitable enterprise behaviors.

Buildings can immediately cause change in behavior upon arrival. Malls, casinos, concerts, festivals and fairs, or sports venues will allow a vastly different set of behaviors than a person would normally do, especially when alcohol or drug consumption is related to the events. Whether upon arrival or departure, the vastness and impersonal nature of such venues will encourage a certain amount of out of control, predatory and criminal behavior that any security guard can describe in alarming detail.

 Some buildings that are intended for fun and entertainment might have areas that dilute the positive mood, such as the aforementioned “dead spaces” that discourage foot traffic. Multiplex movie theatres, large arenas and malls have these areas. People will want to get in and out quickly, then leave quickly to get past those creepy isolated and dead areas.  Others will see that the areas provide unique or enhanced opportunity for predatory behavior and will engage in criminal activity.

In summary, buildings can and do encourage both intended and unintended behaviors as people come to their own decisions as to the nature and use of the building. These uses can be vastly different than the builders, owners, businesses and architects had originally intended.