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Talking Doors

You pass through it everyday: your own front door and possibly those of others as well. We have learnt that this rectangular slab of wood with a steel handle fixed to it, is a door. It is meant to pass through in order to enter a building. However, there is more to this ordinary functional object. The spaces and objects around us are not merely functional: they convey meaning. Every brick has a story, each detail tells us a bit about its users. The language that is used – that of architecture – is socially and culturally constructed (Weisman, 1994). Without any doubt urban planning and architecture reflect cultural values of a certain era, social class, and race through for example building configuration.  

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Early on – some 40 years ago – environmental psychologists (e.g. Rapoport, Becker, Cooper) found that home environments are symbols of the self. Most certainly architects are responsible for the main visual impact of buildings. Its character might therefore also be seen as the personality of its designer, or of the attitude of the designer towards the owner (Herschberger, 1970). However, people choose a certain house themselves and modify or decorate it in order to match it with their psychological needs. They add an emotional layer to its appearance. It therefore becomes a method of communicating identity to others: a house is a means to form a reflection of ones personality, social class and aesthetic preferences. Studies over the past (Vershure et al, 1976; Cooper, 1974; Sadalla et al, 1987) have shown that the home environment is indeed expressible in personality traits. Clearly the perception and evaluation of physically expressed identity and personality traits are dependent on the observer and their values and background. However, in general these observations are surprisingly accurate (Nasar et al, 2005).

Back to Talking doors. The front door is the first ‘meeting point’ for a visitor of a building: the doorbell is rung, people spend some time looking at the flaking paint and name plate, or peaking through the little window. Doors come in all shapes and sizes, distinguishing themselves by colour, texture and detailing. Doors are therefore, as a significant part of a building, more or less a reflection of its owner’s personality. Next time you are entering a house just think of what this door says about the one you are visiting!

References
Cooper, C. (1974). The House as a symbol of Self. In J. Lang (Ed.), Architecture and Human Behavior, Stroudsburg, PA: Dowden, Hutchinson & Rose.
Herschberger, R.G. (1970). Architecture and Meaning. Journal of Aesthetic Education, 4 (4), 37-55.
Nasar, J.L., Stamps III, A.E., Hanyu, K. (2005). Form and function in public buildings. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 25, 159-165.
Sadalla, E.K., Vershure, B., & Burroughs, J. (1987). Identity Symbolism in Housing. Environment and Behavior, 19, 569-587.
Vershure, B.E., Magel, S., & Sadalla, E. (1976). House form and social identity. In P. Suedfeld and J. Russel: The Behavioral basis of design Book 2. Stroudsburg, PA: Dowden, Hutchinson & Ross.
Weisman, L. (1994). Discrimination by Design: A Feminist Critique of the Manmade Environment. Chicago: University of Illinois Press.

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This entry was posted on January 16, 2012 by in articles.
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