Notes: Personal Space: The behavioral basis of design

Sommer, R. (1969). Personal Space: The behavioral basis of design. Prentice-Hall. Englewood Cliffs.

We are told that classrooms should have straight rows of chairs so that the children will face the teacher, prisoners should be kept in separate jail cells, college students should have roommates, and park benches should be heavy and I destructable so that vandals will not cart them away. With or without a conscious philosophy or explicit recognition of the fact, designers are shaping people as well as buildings. page vii.
…most of the concern with functionalism has been focused upon form rather than function. It is as if the structure itself – harmony with the site, the integrity of the materials, the cohesiveness of the separate unite, has become the function. Relatively little emphasis is placed on the activities taking place inside the structure. Page 3.
Designing functional areas or multipurpose space does not complete the architect’s task. It is equally important to show the residents how to use the space productively and to develop effective institutional policies governing space allocation and utilization. A man who is assigned a large work area may use it less efficiently than someone assigned half the area. This is related to life style since some people will accomodate themselves to anything, no matter how uncomfortable or dysfunctional, either because they do not know how to improve the situation or believe that rules forbid them to alter the arrangement. This is especially likely to happen in institutional architecture where space is occupied by nonowners for short periods. How many people significantly alter the chairs in an airport terminal or a doctor’s waiting room? It is a matter of intimidation, inertia, and the belief that results do not warrant extra effort. People accept the idea that the existing arrangement is justified according to some mysterious principle known only to the space owners. Page 10.
The school is an institution devoted to learning but designed for a particular model of teaching (sit and learn) that many educators feel is outmoded. The influence of custodians upon spatial arrangements is evident in both the school and the mental hospital. Page 75.
At the present time, teachers are hindered by their insensitivity to and fatalistic acceptance of the classroom environment. Teachers must be “turned on” to their environment lest their pupils develop this same sort of fatalism. Page 119.