How Design & Architecture Influence Social Interaction at Home
How we build and design our homes profoundly impacts the quality of social interaction that takes place within. Architecture plays a crucial role in shaping human behavior and facilitating meaningful connections between people. We must understand how these factors can influence how we learn, work, play, and form relationships in our residential communities. In this post, we consider the impacts of social interaction on human health and highlight how designers can optimize interiors to facilitate such interactions. At AVLV, our approach to coliving design involves creating adaptable homes with spaces that can be shared or enjoyed privately.
Impact of Social Interaction on Human Health
Social interaction is essential to human health and well-being. Studies have shown that individuals who have a supportive social network are less likely to experience high levels of anxiety, stress, and depression. Furthermore, engaging in regular social interactions can improve cognitive function and promote a sense of purpose and belonging.
In an article for The New York Times, Jane E. Brody elaborates. Referencing University of Texas at Austin research, Brody notes that “low quantity or quality of social ties [are linked] with a host of conditions.” A persistent absence of social interaction can not only harm one’s health.
The opposite is also true. According to that research and Brody’s article for The Times, “social interactions can enhance good health through a positive influence on people’s living habits.” In fact, quality social interactions can actually “foster ‘a sense of meaning and purpose in life.’”
Social Interaction in the Home
Social interaction in the home is a key aspect of our daily lives. With the rise of remote work, we spend most of our time at home. It is also where we build meaningful relationships with those closest to us. For children and young adults, the social interaction experienced at home is key to their successful development. This is true whether or not one grows up in a multi generational house.
Research has shown that social interaction at home can have many benefits for our health and well-being — from early childhood through late adulthood. This 2017 report from the UK Green Building Council underscores the importance of social interaction in the home. According to the report, “social interaction is a key factor in determining both the physical and the mental health and wellbeing of an individual.”
While these interactions occur wherever we go, “the majority…emerge within our homes and immediate surroundings.” The report notes that “we intuitively value [interactions that occur in the home] more as a result of their long-lasting presence.”
Isolation vs. Interaction: How Interior Layout Impacts Psychology and Behavior
Positive Impacts of Coliving Design
Design and architecture play a crucial role in facilitating such social interactions within our homes. By creating open spaces that encourage communication and collaboration, designers can help residents connect with one another on a deeper level.
For example, an open-plan kitchen and living area encourage family members or roommates to spend time together while cooking or relaxing. Similarly, outdoor spaces like patios, balconies, or gardens can provide opportunities for neighbors to come together and enjoy the benefits of nature.
Anywhere that allows for people to socialize in passing – no matter how brief – can be valuable. As this post from Building Social Ecology notes, “shared corridors provide an important place for socialising, interacting and lingering.” Clearly, the way we build and design our homes has a significant impact on our ability to form meaningful connections and maintain mental health.
Negative Impacts of a Closed Interior Layout
On the other hand, a closed and compartmentalized interior layout can lead to feelings of isolation and disconnection. If residents are constantly separated by walls or doors, they may have fewer opportunities to interact with one another. They may feel less connected as a result. This can be especially harmful to individuals who live alone or those who struggle with social anxiety.
Furthermore, a lack of natural light or outdoor access can also negatively impact mental health and social interactions within the home. Without access to natural light and fresh air, individuals may experience lower mood levels and decreased motivation to engage in social activities. It is crucial that designers prioritize natural elements such as windows and greenery that encourage a healthy and social living environment.
Balancing Private and Social Space
Closed-off spaces have a way of isolating family members from each other and limiting healthy social interactions. However, it is important to note that design should not solely focus on encouraging social interaction. It must also take into account the need for privacy and personal space. This is especially vital in multigenerational households. Elissaveta M. Brandon elaborates in an article for Architectural Digest. She writes that “one of the biggest concerns in sharing…with other generations is how to strike a balance between private and shared spaces.”
Striking the right balance can be challenging, but it is necessary for optimal social interaction and mental health. Therefore, designers must think creatively about how to incorporate private areas while still encouraging social connections.
Through research and responsible design practices, architects and designers can create environments that effectively promote social interaction. At the same time, they can create adaptable spaces that respect individual needs for privacy and personal space. The benefits of such efforts will result in happier, healthier communities where people feel valued, supported, and connected to one another.
Qualities of Design & Architecture that Encourage Social Interaction at Home
As detailed above, design and architecture have a profound influence on social interaction at home. Here’s how coliving design can encourage social interaction without infringing on each resident’s right to privacy.
Unobstructed Flow from One Space to the Next Encourages Movement
One key factor in promoting social interaction at home is having an unobstructed flow between rooms. This allows people to move freely from one space to another and makes it easier for them to collaborate or simply communicate in passing.
Ensuring residents and guests can easily move from interior to exterior is also essential to fostering connection at home. As such, architects and designers should focus on creating natural environments that promote both privacy and community.
To do this, we can incorporate natural lighting in the home and green spaces directly outside. Research shows that access to nature has a positive effect on mental health, which ultimately contributes to healthier social interactions. Even the smallest garden, patch of grass, or view of nature can make an impact.
The Kitchen is the “Hub of the Home”
The kitchen is truly the heart of any home. It’s where family and friends gather to entertain, cook together and share meals. Following the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us also work and study from our dining tables or kitchen islands.
One interesting way to promote social interaction in the kitchen is through architecture. Center the kitchen to increase traffic to and from this space. Add a large picture window to maximize natural light. Consider adding a private nook, cozy seating area, or long island that will allow guests to feel relaxed and at ease.
Ensure the kitchen is open to the living spaces that surround it, so guests and family can gather while hosts prepare meals. Hosts are often isolated while cooking for friends and family. By connecting the kitchen to interior living spaces and the backyard or patio, families can come together seamlessly.
Multifunctional or Flex Spaces Allow for Passive & Active Social Interaction
Not all social interaction is active; some is passive. Some can find constant active socialization to be rather draining. To encourage residents to gather without the need for constant active socialization, zone larger spaces for different activities.
Making a room multifunctional allows residents and guests to share a singular space while using different zones independently. Placing these zones in close proximity to one another also supports collaboration should residents choose to socialize.
Adequate storage to create a calm, uncluttered, and less stressful environment
Seamlessly integrated built-in storage helps keep clutter at bay — creating a peaceful and organized environment. When a space is cramped and messy, it can be difficult to focus on meaningful work or enjoy quality time with loved ones. A lack of organization can also lead to increased stress levels and a feeling of being overwhelmed.
It’s interesting to note that having adequate storage not only has a positive effect on one’s mental state but also on physical health. Studies show that excess clutter can contribute to dust buildup and poor air quality, leading to potential health issues. Having a clear and clean living space promotes a healthier lifestyle as well.
Higher Ceilings Encourage Free Thought & Make Guests Feel More Comfortable
Many homeowners prefer bright spaces with vaulted ceilings. High ceilings have been a selling point in residential real estate and event planning for decades. But did you know that these airy interiors can actually impact our psychology and behavior? Researchers at the University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business found that higher ceilings can boost creativity, cognition, and comfort levels.
According to their research, “a higher versus a lower ceiling can stimulate the concepts of freedom versus confinement.” This shift can “cause people to engage in either more free-form, abstract thinking.” Designers often refer to this phenomenon as “the Cathedral Effect.” We imagine that “free-form, abstract thinking” could result in more complex, meaningful conversations between residents.
Population Density Presents Social Architecture Design Challenges in Philadelphia
Philadelphia is one of the most densely populated cities in the United States. According to Ellen Gutoskey in an article for Mental Floss, Philadelphia sits squarely in the top ten most crowded cities. Others on the list include New York City, San Francisco, Boston, Miami, and Chicago.
Fighting for space in an increasingly crowded city, apartments and single family homes tend to be smaller in Philadelphia than other US cities. Writing for Curbed Philadelphia, Melissa Romero notes that “the average apartment size has shrunk by 25 percent in recent years.” Referencing statistics from RCLO and RENTCafe, Romero writes that Philadelphia has experienced “the greatest decrease…out of all 20 major U.S. metropolitan markets.”
The petite footprint of Philly homes can make it difficult to strike a comfortable balance between shared and private spaces. At AVLV, we embrace the challenges presented by Philadelphia’s little lots with efficient, small-space design that serves each resident equally.
AVLV's Design Strategies Promote Social Interaction in Philadelphia
Architects who consider coliving design when creating spaces provide more opportunities for connection and community growth. Designing social spaces can enhance the emotional, psychological, and physical well-being of residents and guests.
At AVLV, all our designs promote social interaction and human health. We recognize that thoughtful design can encourage socialization and lead to increased quality of life. One example of how we promote social interaction is by designing shared common spaces, such as rooftop gardens, shared patios, or communal kitchens.
These areas are meant to bring people together — sharing ideas, experiences, and perspectives. Through these encounters, relationships are formed, and bonds are strengthened. We believe that creating a sense of community within our buildings is key to providing a great housing experience.
At AVLV, we want to move beyond just building structures – we aim to create meaningful living environments through our projects. By focusing on promoting social interaction, we hope to grant our residents an opportunity to connect with one another and develop a sense of belonging.
Our vision is clear: through a new approach to conscious design and management, we can bring people closer together and support each other.
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