Human scale and the built environment

Human scale influences our built environments in different ways, and for a variety of reasons.  In some cases the built environment is serving purely as shelter and not much else.  In the United States I believe we lose sight of the fact that the spaces we build for ourselves often much larger and take up more room per person than almost anywhere else in the world.  Our average standard of living is by no means the world standard.  Below is a photo of a typical Masai village in Kenya, called a Boma.  When I visited Kenya I was able to take a tour of this village and go inside a couple of the houses.  They were not tall enough to stand in, and the hall was not wide enough to make a full turn (you had to back out unless you entered one of the rooms where you would be able to turn around).  The houses were used for sleeping, keeping warm and for some cooking.

Here, the human scale that was considered in the construction was not the same scale that we usually use.  The requirements of the Masai are to build a house that a person, or a few people can fit in, using the least amount of material possible.  There is a big difference between building something that a person can fit in, and building something that accommodates a wide range of human activities.

That also addresses the question of how a built environment influences human occupation.  If a space is suitable for a wide range of human activities it will serve as the place where people engage and come together most of the time.  If a space is suitable for only a couple of activities, most of the human interaction will take place outside of that space.  That's not to say one is better than the other, but it really depends on what activities one wants to use a space for and what their priorities are.

1 comment :

  1. I appreciate the way you referred to a personal experience that clearly had an impact on your understanding of lifestyle characteristics across cultures. One of the most fundamental aspects of being a designer and an architect is developing a holistic view of both the context within which you are intervening, but also gaining a well informed understanding of the people you are designing for. There is by no means a single answer for every design problem. This makes architecture a fascinating field, and also one that requires immense amounts of research (and a sensitivity to a variety of lifestyles), as well as the ability to listen and interpret the desires of the intended occupants.