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Sands and colleagues researched how urban planners believe design can drive city success.  They share that “In an online survey, urban planners were asked to identify the attributes that contributed to the success of the downtowns of mid-size urban areas prior to the pandemic as well as the attributes that would facilitate their post-pandemic recovery. While some urban scholars expect that recovery will lead to a ‘new normal’, the planners surveyed here are largely focused on restoring the ‘old normal’.”  

Gary Sands, Laura Reese, Chade Saghir, and Pierre Filion.  “Planning for Post-Pandemic Downtowns of Mid-Size Urban Areas.”  Planning Practice and Research, in press,

The Architecture of Health – Hospital Design and the Construction of Dignity distills and presents Murphy’s (and MASS’s) insights into hospital design.  As the web page created for the book by its publishers states ( “Reading architecture through the history of hospitals offers a tool for unlocking the elemental principles of architecture and the intractable laws of human and social conditions that architecture serves in each of our lives. This book encounters brilliant and visionary designers who were hospital architects but also systems designers, driven by the aim of social change. They faced the contradictions of health care in their time and found innovative ways to solve for specific medical dilemmas. . . . The Architecture of Health charts historical epidemics alongside modern and contemporary architectural transformations in service of medicine, health and habitation, exploring how infrastructure facilitates healing and architecture’s greater role in constructing our societies.”

Michael Murphy with Jeffrey Mansfield and MASS Design Group.  2021.  The Architecture of Health – Hospital Design and the Construction of Dignity.  artbook &; New York.

Although much of Danesi’s book focuses on communication via body language, facial expressions, and interpersonal zones/distancing, there are sections that directly address design’s nonverbal messaging.  Danesi shares, for example that “The fact that social groups build and design their abodes and public edifices of their villages, towns, and cities in characteristic ways is an indication that these are meaningful proxemic structures. A building is hardly ever perceived by the members of a society as simply a pile of bricks, wood, straw, etc., put together to provide shelter.  Rather, its shape, size, features, and location are perceived to be signs or sign vehicles that refer to a range of culture-specific proxemics meanings.  Buildings are, in effect, artificial extensions of those who inhabit them. This applies as well to public spaces, which are felt to be extensions of a ‘community body.’ . . . Spatial codes also assign tasks and functions to specific locales, as well as how to behave and appear in them, including dress, language, etc. They give coherence and purpose to social activities and routines, producing recognizable effects on how people experience places—the space in one’s home feels more personal than the space in a bank; at a party, a feast, or a traditional ceremony people assume the social personae that they are either assigned or expected to play, including what clothes to wear, etc. . . . A home is . . . . an extension of character, as indicated by its layout, design, material objects, etc.  It is felt, therefore, to be an extension of the body’s protective armor and the personality of the inhabitant.  . . .  When people build and decorate their homes, they are primarily engaged in making images of themselves to suit their own eyes and to present themselves through them to others.”

Marcel Danesi.  2022.  Understanding Nonverbal Communication – A Semiotic Guide.  Bloomsbury:  London, England.

Willems and colleagues investigated environmental control by hospital patients.  They report that “Research indicates that adaptation influences how people experience indoor conditions (ICs), and that the built environment influences both adaptation, via perceived control, and well-being. . . . we investigated how the design of hospital rooms can contribute to patients’ well-being by supporting their adaptation of and to ICs via perceived control. Two mixed methods case studies were conducted at hospital wards in Belgium, each concurrently collecting qualitative and quantitative [for example environmental sensor] data. . . . When perceiving control over adaptable building characteristics, patients can adapt ICs or adapt to ICs by choice. When not perceiving such control, they may still adapt sensations or their position. Without any perceived control, adapting to ICs is imposed. The built environment can support patients’ adaptation by supporting their autonomy and competences. In this way it can foster both patients’ eudaimonic [for example, related to self-actualization] as well as their hedonic [pleasure-related] well-being.”

S. Willems, D. Saelens, and A. Heylighen.  2022.  “Patient Well-Being, Adaptation of and to Indoor Conditions, and Hospital Room Design:  Two Mixed Methods Case Studies.”  Building Research and Information, vol. 50, no. 1-2, pp. 105-133,

Soares and colleagues researched which sorts of places people felt they were most likely to have shared knowledge/ideas in.  The team learned via data collected at two sorts of Dutch university campuses (inner city ones and “science parks”) that “locations of built environment features influenced creativity between people. . . .  ‘creativity’ or ‘creative encounters’ were represented by the act of sharing knowledge and the exchange of ideas with others. . . . At inner-city campuses, creativity was localized in one or two spots, and somewhat dependent on university buildings. This was different for SPs as there was a greater variety of creative encounters throughout the campuses, proving that creativity did not necessarily depend on buildings. . . . The presence of ‘third places’, such as cafés, restaurants, and canteens, have the power of facilitating a sense of community-gathering on campus and consequently communication between people from multiple backgrounds. . . . even though . . . natural features could be significant for creativity, in the cases of Dutch inner-city campuses and science parks, their presence did not necessarily play a role in the number of creative encounters.”

Isabelle Soares, Viktor Venhorst, Gerd Weitkamo, and Claudia Yamu.  2022.  “The Impact of the Built Environment on Creativity in Public Spaces of Dutch University Campuses and Science Parks.”  Journal of Urban Design, vol. 27, no. 1, pp. 91-109,

In a study perfect for Halloween but just released, Tashjian and collegues report on just what happens to us when we’re in a scary place (for this project, a haunted house with 17 rooms) and the social nature of fear-type responses.  They share that “Threats elicit physiological responses, the frequency and intensity of which have implications for survival. Ethical and practical limitations on human laboratory manipulations present barriers to studying immersive threat. . . . The current . . . study measured electrodermal [on skin electrical] activity in 156 adults while they participated in small groups [composed of friends and strangers] in a 30-min haunted-house experience involving various immersive threats. Results revealed positive associations between . . .friends and tonic [persistent] arousal, (b) unexpected attacks and phasic [transitory, fleeting] activity . . . Findings demonstrate the relevance of (a) social dynamics (friends vs. strangers) for tonic arousal and (b) subjective fear and threat predictability for phasic arousal.”  So, the more friends people toured the haunted house with, the greater their physical responses to “threats” encountered; it seems we pick up signals sent by those co-experiencing friends.   Also, unexpected scary events produce more intense responses than more predictable ones.

Sarah Tashjian, Virginia Fedrigo, Tanaz Molapur, Dean Mobbs, and Colin Camerer.  “Physiological Responses to a Haunted-House Threat Experience:  Distinct Tonic and Phasic Effects.”  Psychological Science, in press,

Van Dijk-Wesselius and colleagues studied how children (their sample was 7 – 11 years old) responded during recess breaks when additional plants are added to their schoolyards.  The team determined via data collected through videotaping at 5 primary schools (all of whose school yards were paved when baseline measurements were taken) in The Netherlands that “Results show an increase in observed play, as compared to non-play, behavior, after greening. Furthermore, there was an increase in games-with-rules, a small increase in constructive and explorative play behavior, and a decrease in passive non-play behaviors. This impact of greening was stronger for girls compared to boys.” Also, “The finding that greening increased the prevalence of constructive and exploratory play, is in line with the assumption that greening schoolyards creates a more fascinating, unpredictable and flexible environment that affords more varied play behavior compared to paved schoolyards. . . . children still predominantly engaged in functional play [use of objects as they were intended] and games-with-rules in their new green schoolyard.” Two key definitions “Constructive play – manipulation of objects to construct or ‘create’ something. . .  Exploratory play - a focused examination of objects (or other people or situations) in the environment.”  Data were gathered during a baseline period and again after two years had passed.

Janke van Dijk-Wesselius, Jolanda Maas, Mark van Vugt, and Agnes van den Berg.  “A Comparison of Children’s Play and Non-Play Behavior Before and After Schoolyard Greening Monitored by Video Observations.”  Journal of Environmental Psychology, in press,

Research conducted by a Kerimova-lead team indicates how different the space assessments of different user groups can be.  They determined via an eye-tracking based study that “Green zones and parking lots differentially affect the preferences of people who own cars and those who do not. . . . Two interest groups—. . . people who owned a car and . . . people who did not a car—observed . . . images of courtyards. Images were digitally modified to manipulate the spatial arrangement of key courtyard elements: green zones, parking lots, and children’s playgrounds. The participants were asked to rate the attractiveness of courtyards during hypothetical renting decisions. . . . The results . . . indicate that urban greenery may differentially affect the preferences of interest groups.”  For car owners, courtyards packed with parking spaces but no trees were less unappealing than they were to people who didn't own cars.  Car owners were likely to respond particularly strongly and positively to the presence of greenery in courtyards, however.  So the car owners seem to strongly value both the parking spaces and the greenery.

Nadezhda Kerimova, Pavel Sivokhin, Diana Kodzokova, Karine Nikogosyan, and Vasily Klucharev.  2022.  “Visual Processing of Green Zones in Shared Courtyards During Renting Decisions:  An Eye-Tracking Study.”  Urban Forestry and Urban Greening, vol. 68, 127460,

Muth and Carbon studied ambivalent art (specifically photographs) and our responses to it.  First, a definition, “Ambivalence describes a conflict between contrasting valences, for example, when an image appears bitter but sweet.” The researchers conducted “two studies with artistic photographs examining the relationship between ambivalence and interest. The first study utilized explicit evaluations and revealed a positive relationship between estimated ambivalence and interest [more ambivalence, more interest]. . . . The second study utilized a forced-choice paradigm that was captured by a high-speed eyetracker. . . . When we asked participants which of two images they wanted to learn more about, they chose ambivalent photos more often and looked slightly longer at them.”

Claudia Muth and Claus-Christian Carbon.  “Ambivalence of Artistic Photographs Stimulates Interest and the Motivation to Engage.”  Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, in press,

Ming, Deng, and Wu determined that experiencing air-pollution has predictable effects on Earth friendly-type decisions, ones that design may need to help overcome.  The investigators found that “People are less willing to engage in PEB [pro-environmental behaviors] (e.g., purchasing pro-environmental products, recycling, sustainable travel, donation to environmental organizations) when air pollution is severe. . . . This is because the negative mood triggered by air pollution inhibits their willingness to engage in PEB.”

Yaxin Ming, Huixin Deng, and Xiaoyue Wu.  “The Negative Effect of Air Pollution on People’s Pro-Environmental Behavior.”Journal of Business Research, vol. 142, pp. 72-87,


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