Architectural Psychology

Historically, it has been the role of architects, planners, and designers to interpret the needs, wishes, and capabilities of those who will use their buildings. But more often than not, the architect's client (whether a developer, sponsor, or agency) is not the end-user. The client may not even be an occupant. In public facilities, those who manage the facility may differ from typical users in education, mobility, and physical characteristics. The "user" may be a prisoner in a jail!

Let's say you can identify a specific person or group as the user and that this user is an alive and sentient being and is even willing to be interviewed. Still, the user may not be able to communicate their functional requirements to the designer and the designer may really not have the means of "hearing" what the customer is really asking for.

So who speaks for the visitor, customer, user, or occupant? Perhaps Behavioural Team is needed to identify, characterize, quantify, and communicate the needs of users to the development team, perceptively and correctly.

Making designs user friendly

Today, there is a need for specialized behavioral sophistication in facility design to properly determine functional and ergonomic requirements and to translate them into the language of design and ultimately into bricks, mortar, and operating practices.

Making designs accessible to a diversity of users

Universal access to public facilities is the norm today, regardless of physical limitations, health status, sex, or sophistication of visitors. Under these circumstances, a developer needs to understand the specific needs, wishes, and physical capabilities of the full range of users and the barriers to the realization of their wishes.

Encouraging people to act wisely and be nice

The design of the building should take the behavior of users into account and the users' behavior, in turn, can be modified to better suit the demands of the environment. Undesirable behavior includes crime and vandalism, and also such ordinary acts as getting lost in buildings. For these reasons, specialists in behavior -- such as Behavioural Team -- are needed.

At what points in the cycle of development should Behavioural Team be called in?

  1. Early planning: to establish the functional requirements and basic specifications. What assumptions are being made about the needs or wishes of users? Are these assumptions realistic, are they wishful thinking, are they dour, or are they Prozac speaking?
  2. "Translation": to help the design team produce plans that actually do achieve an accurate representation of the Functional Program; to see to it that safety, ergonomics, and sensible amenity prevail.
  3. Design review: to examine development plans before the concrete is poured. Are there safety hazards? Will maintenance costs be low? Can users "figure out" how to use the spaces? Is crowding under control?
  4. Start-up: to prepare "turn-key" documentation, train staff in the new facility, and advise on ways to minimize opening-week disarray of any kind.
  5. Post-occupancy fine-tuning: to confirm "building performance" and identify solutions to operating problems.

In what type of building is Behavioural Team's behavioral and ergonomic background useful?

In the past three decades Behavioural Team staff have been called upon to plan (and to provide solutions) for facilities both great and small.

Settings we have served:

The Hajj in Mecca, the largest recurring pedestrian gathering in the world, two to four million pilgrims
CN Tower, tallest building in the world
world’s largest hostel, in New York City
SkyDome Stadium (Rogers Centre) and various stadiums and arenas
Meadowlands Race Track (world's largest!), New Jersey
major rail stations, subway stations
World Trade Center post-disaster evaluation committee
major hotels
many libraries
Rolling Stones and The Who  concerts
Roy Thomson Hall and other cultural edifices
offices in the Sears Tower, Chicago
in a life-raft in the arctic in February
Otis elevators
World Youth Day / Pope’s Mass (largest gathering ever held in Canada)
hospitals and nursing homes
Javits Convention Center, New York City,
CBC headquarters
a police communications center
nuclear power plants
retail and banking outlets
naval warships
corporate headquarters
Commonwealth Stadium, Edmonton
air traffic control tower
maintenance workshops
Banff Nat'l Park and many other natural and historic parks
nuclear fallout shelters, government and domestic
a small doughnut store
mail sorting center
museums such as the Canadian Museum of Civilization,
Ontario Science Centre, Royal Ontario Museum, etc.


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