5 principles of human-friendly facades

Amsterdam old town

The principles of humane architecture are nothing new. You have probably heard about most of them and you have almost certainly seen them in number of older buildings. But what makes them more relevant today than ever before is the knowledge about human psychology. It shows that we need to return to these principles and create a new kind of architecture – modern, but human-centered. And designing good facades is one of the key parts of this process.

But first we need to talk about beauty. In the past century under the influence of philosophy and modern art, most of us have adopted the adage that “beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.” But even this belief is slowly falling apart thanks to science. Of course, there are differences in what we find beautiful. But research also shows that, in reality, we are much more similar in our perceptions of beauty. This is because beauty is not just an inexplicable and purely subjective concept. Beauty is also a feeling with which our brain responds to the environment and sensations which help us survive.

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Why facades are critical for a great public space

In the recent years, there has been a lot of discussion about public space. We often hear how important is the right size of a square, the appropriate choice of greenery, comfortable sidewalks for pedestrians or ergonomic design of benches. We hear a little less, however, that one of the most important elements of public space is the buildings that surround and shape it.

Negative space - modern development
Negative space is not enclosed, it forms the background for buildings. Outdated standards often lead to it. Source: Hi Development

There are several reasons for this. First of them might be a practical one. Under today’s conditions and with the current form of the zoning plan in many European cities, the city simply does not have much impact on the appearance of buildings. In some countries, we encounter so-called “form-based” zoning plans. Meaning those that determine the formal appearance rather than the function of buildings in a certain zone, so that the whole neighborhood looks pleasing and unified.

The second reason is the orientation of today’s architecture on individual buildings and their authors, rather than the creation of harmonious neighborhoods. And the third one is the strong legal protection of private property, which results in weak powers of the city in regulating the appearance of buildings.

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