I always wondered why rooms tend to be rectangular pretty much all over the world. Googling for that suggests that it's a price thing, but I'm not convinced, since expensive homes still seem to prefer rectangular rooms.
Even contemporary buildings, with extremely weird and non-uniform facades, still tend to be grid-based on the inside.
I would be really interested if this preference study was also done in the real world, not just in VR.
Another related universal thing, why do we sleep with the head towards the wall (as opposed to the center of the room). Googling suggests a deep security measure, since the wall prevents attacks from behind you, which are the hardest to defend against.
Feng-shui deals with these kind of issues, if you move beyond the superstitious layer (have a turtle for money, ...)
By reading feng-shui books I learned to get a bit more intune with my inner feelings (the chi/qi), so now, if I sit in a room with no apparent exit, or with a cluttered path to the exit, I can pin point the insecurity feelings emanating from my subconscious.
Plus, it's also much easier to change the configuration of the room, or to transfer one piece of furniture from one room to another. So even if people weren't just lazy about how to fit perfectly pentagonal furniture in their houses, so long as they were trying and testing new shapes, furniture would probably evolutionarily converge to something squareish.
Architecture is, at some level, a packing problem. Packing problems tend to favor lines and corners over organic curves.
And then you need to arrange rooms and corridors around those columns, and it's much more convenient to not have random columns dropping through the middle of most rooms. So you align your walls on the column grid, and now you have a bunch of straight walls and 90 degree angles.
To some degree it goes the other way (I need my rooms to be X by Y, design column grid to match), and you still do rectangular rooms because you know that way you can push your column gridlines into the walls. And it's not perfectly consistent, your central corridor might fall in an off-module grid width. But one way or another most modern buildings are on a grid like that.
This makes for very cosy flats which are very much liked and in demand. It also makes for very good acoustics, unlike modern flat and hard walls/ceilings.
And yet people in charge here still build "modern" buildings, even when we have known for the past 50 years that this kind of building never make people feel part of a community, which is so important for society.
Just a guess, though.
When I was in Singapore in the early 90s, I remember my family looking at a rental unit in the Draycott towers. It was super cool looking, but lack of places for furniture to go is what nixed it.
For the curious... exterior and interior:
The only reasonable alternative is a regular hexagonal tiling, and that means having more neighboring rooms, which gives its own problems.
I also feel that way about residential architecture, where intricate façades seem to have faded away in newer homes. Even grotesque McMansions feel comparatively tame in comparison to say, an Edwardian or Brownstone style home.
Pointing cost as a reason made sense back then, but now feels counterintuitive, as we have so many more materials and ways to mass produce intricate details today that we did back then - 3D printing, CNC, etc. - I don't see why a Victorian style neighborhood couldn't be built today without the intensive labor costs it used to take to make those details that make those homes so beautiful.
Humans prefer humanistic architecture, with fractal visual complexity and natural materials. Modernism tossed it all out, then the post modernists recognized that that was a horrible mistake, but decided it was too uncool to just go back to what people actually liked.
If you are interested in a short US-centric read on how the whole thing went down, read this:
Post WW2 architects have a lot of human unhappiness to answer for.
But that said, the Amsterdam School and the WPA work were beautiful, and I'd never heard of them before. Thank you for mentioning them! I'll be sure to look into both in a lot more detail.
1. Cool, I've always wondered the same thing whenever I visit DC. I wonder what it would be like to walk to/from work with big, grand architecture all around and if it would change my mindset if I saw it every day, it certainly does when I visit.
2. While its interesting to consider, this feels like an optimization for a system we don't even have working yet. There are so many ills to deal with in our societies that I feel like its not something that is worth spending much public time or effort on (research it all you want by all means). I hate to feel that way because when people deride NASA/space research/pure research it frustrates me because they aren't mutually exclusive with solving earth problems (fix our planet before we try to go to mars!), but I can't help but feel like this could mostly improve life for people who are already living pretty good too. I'm conflicted about actually putting this into practice.
The rich, and the prosperous upper-middle class, can live where they like and enjoy traditional architecture (look up New Traditional construction), but ordinary people are stuck with ordinary buildings, which are awful under a Modernist regime -- or under our current Postmodernist regime of cheap pull-up sheds adorned with ticky-tacky.
From Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pruitt%E2%80%93Igoe), Pruitt-Igoe was a slum-clearance project, intended to provide more hygienic, healthier, cleaner, less crowded, and generally better living conditions for people who were already living in the area. The hope was that it would integrate its inhabitants better into the economy, and help everyone living there -- both black and white -- to get ahead in life. The project was actually really well racially integrated for 1950s Missouri: blacks lived in buildings named for Pruitt (a black ace pilot in WWII), whites in buildings named for Igoe (a white Congresscritter), but they were all in the same vicinity. Presumably this reflected the composition of the slums Pruitt-Igoe was replacing, since the inhabitants of the old neighborhood (called DeSoto-Carr) were moved into Pruitt-Igoe as the old buildings were torn down. (No need to pity them for being expropriated: the inhabitants didn't own the buildings, and slumlords don't deserve much sympathy.)
And, strikingly enough, the initial design for the neighborhood would have been a success. High rises aren't the Devil when they're integrated into the urban fabric (otherwise present-day Manhattan would be a nightmare); Pruitt-Igoe was meant to be a mix of high-rises, mid-rises, and two- to four-storey walk-ups, until cost cutting came into play and they ended up with towers in a park.
Since the same people had the same economic conditions before, during, and after Pruitt-Igoe, and since they committed more crimes during Pruitt-Igoe than before or after, I think it's fair to say that the architecture, not the economic conditions, was at fault.
Crucially, there are few buildings above two stories in the many blocks between the downtown area and the south shores of Cayuga Lake. There are so many trees in between that one could be forgiven for thinking that a major section of the city is little more than a forest or a densely wooded park, when viewed from above.
For anyone creating in VR, this book should be required reading. But, I haven't heard anyone working in VR acknowledge it. My background is in art, and I have held this book as just short of sacred throughout my practice.
Is this an overly cynical reading of the article?
It's the idea of some immediate psychological response to the environment like that of the stress level of a passerby to a facade that bothers me, because it reminds me too much of stuff which IMO hasn't been particularly useful in urban planning, such as the broken windows theory. There's no immediate inference that can be made from the immediate psychological response of a passerby to the behavioral response of a urban population to the same environment over long periods of time. There plenty of neighborhoods in this world that might look like shit but which aren't actually shit, and most often neither do the plainer houses in a given neighborhood house people any worse than their neighbors. But in so far as lots of money might be wasted trying to "solve" these issues, the whole idea to me sounds to me like a massive red herring.
Still, I see your point: are they getting to the right answer in the right way? I like the idea of breaking up blank facades, but I agree with your point that an area can look ugly or frightening to an outsider but fairly pleasant to a local -- and that if this way of doing things grows beyond the blank-facades question, it could become a serious problem.
And, I'm assuming this same oddness of feel extends to older buildings pretty much everywhere?
(I know the ISO sizes are based on the golden ratio, but I think this probably has more to do with me being a lawyer practicing in the United States. PerhapsUS-Letter and Legal sizes subconsciously read as "work" to me and A4 reads as exotic.)
> the ISO sizes are based on the golden ratio
And again, it would not be limited to just US houses, would it? Specifically, are most buildings in older EU cities built to metric specifications?
It's like using letter paper format instead of A4, it also feels a little odd to me.