How does human scale and proportion influence the built environment?

How does human scale and proportion influence the built environment?
  • In the 17th and 18th centuries Americans men we, on average, 5' 5.75" tall.  That is about 4" shorter than we are today.  You can see evidence of this if you go into a local home of that era.  The ceilings were often well under 8' tall, closer to 7' 6".  Now we wouldn't dream of building a home with a ceiling so close to 7', as many people are over 6' tall.  In a middle class home of either era, 6" makes a big difference. As human scale has changed, so has our built environment.  (
How does our built environment influence human occupation?
  • In 1950 the "ideal house size" were just under 1000 sq. ft.    As materials and building costs have gone down, Americans can afford, and consequently desire, bigger homes.  In 2000, the "ideal house size" was about 2300 sq. ft.  As a side-effect of having larger built environments, we now have more space to fill.  This likely contributed to the development of our consumer  driven culture.  Collecting was once the past time of the wealthy.  Now the middle class has homes big enough to hold collections, and so beanie babies, precious moments figurines and the like were born.  While I have no statistics to back it up, I hypothesize that bigger homes have also changed how families interact with each other.  We are no longer forces to "work it out" with siblings the way Wally and the Beaver (or my parents and grandparents) were.  We can all just go to our own room and let the conflict sit unresolved.  (

1 comment :

  1. In addition to the direct correlation between ceiling height and body height, it would be interesting to think of some other smaller scale ways in which home design has changed as a result of evolving human dimensions. For instance, have there been changes in furniture dimensions and proportions? What are some potential changes you can imagine for homes 50, 100, or 300 years from now?