I Need My S P A C E

I Need My S P A C E

AMY ONG

There’s no place like home. Toto, I don’t think we’re in Kansas, anymore. Everything’s bigger and better in Texas.

Our lives are grounded by space. Our attitudes towards our surroundings matter. If you don’t believe me, just hop into your car and drive to your nearest IKEA. People love their furniture. Still don’t trust me? Maybe the numbers will convince you. The net worth of IKEA is estimated to be £51 billion or $75,283,560,000. That’s a lot of dough.

The ability of our surroundings to influence our attitudes falls under the umbrella term of environmental psychology, which refers to the study of the relationship of an environment and its inhabitants. The term was first used by scholars such as Kurt Lewin and Egon Brunswik, who suggested that not only could an environment be controlled, its inhabitants could be, too. The impact of our surroundings on our everyday lives is more complicated than feng shui or Marie Kondo:we engage in dialogue with physical spaces everyday. If this is the case, why hasn’t more been said on this?

Environmental psychology brings up the issue of nature versus nurture and plays a crucial role in urban planning. In a study of England conducted by the Landscape Institute in 2008, close proximity to green spaces could have positive health benefits as in these areas, the health discrepancies caused by social and class differences are less pronounced. A series of studies

Such as those published by Newbury, et al, and Pederson and Mortensen, have shown that living in a city can double the likelihood a person develops schizophrenia. A study conducted by Andreas Meyer-Lindenberg at the University of Heidelberg even suggested that our surroundings have the capability of altering our “brain biology,” influencing our prefrontal cortex.

A lack of consideration of environmental psychology can have disastrous consequence. In St. Louis, for example, a failed urban planning attempt occurred with the development of the Pruitt-Igoe housing complex. The Pruitt-Igoe housing complex was an urban housing project. Instead of improving living conditions, however, the development of Pruitt-Igoe was correlated with a surge of poverty, crime, and segregation. The Pruitt-Igoe housing complex became a prime example of the power of space in influencing individuals as it was believed that the wide open spaces between the high-rises discouraged community and brought about a feeling of isolation and disconnectedness from the rest of the community.

With the latest opening of Ellsworth Kelly’s Austin, the relationship between our environments and our health and well-being is becoming increasingly paramount. Our attitudes towards our environment play a huge role in our health as studies have shown that high levels of stress can have degenerative health effects. Our environment impacts  how we evaluate the quality of our lives, and our attitudes towards the future.

The relationship between the environment and our health has been understated, and while The National may sing, “I Need My Girl,” this author sings a different tune: no, dude, I need my s p a c e.

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