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Description

In this lesson, students examine the relationship between architectural design and the human experience to recognize how it influences the shape of the built environment. Learners explore this intersection by assessing an architectural structure in their immediate community to determine whether a new design or a redesign would make it more human centered as well as imaginative, innovative, and distinctive.

Objectives

By the end of this lesson, students will be able to:

  • Identify the impact human-centered design has on the built environment and the people it serves
  • Illustrate how people’s emotional responses to and experiences with the built environment influence architectural design
  • Assess architecture from a human-centered and emotional perspective to determine whether a redesign is more emotionally appealing
  • Formulate design solutions or enhancements to heighten people’s experience with the built environment
Subject Areas
  • ELA
  • Science
Categories
  • Architecture
A second 55-minute lesson is optional.

About the Artist

Thomas Heatherwick

Thomas Heatherwick is a British designer whose prolific and varied work over two decades is characterized by its ingenuity, inventiveness, and originality. Defying the conventional classification of design disciplines, he founded Heatherwick studio in 1994 to bring the practices of design, architecture, and urban planning together in a single workspace. Heatherwick’s unusual approach applies artistic thinking to the needs of each project, resulting in some of the most acclaimed designs of our time.

Watch

About the Author

Michele Israel

Michele Israel is a seasoned professional with over 25 years in the educational, nonprofit, learning and development, and consulting fields. She has partnered with over 70 organizations to guide the development and implementation of myriad programs and products, including over 100 lesson plans for media companies and nonprofit entities, such as PBS, POV, WETA, Films Media Group, WNET, Wide Angle, and Religion and Ethics NewsWeekly, Frost Valley YMCA, and Teaching Tolerance. Israel draws on her experience as an educator, trainer, and learning experience designer to create engaging learning opportunities for learners of all ages. She has an MA in Educational Administration from Teachers College, Columbia University, and holds other professional certificates in instructional design, curriculum development, and design thinking.

Preparation

Watch the Thomas Heatherwick segment.

Read one of the following articles (or read all three) for background on emotional response, human-centered design, and the built environment.

Optional: For insight on how to use feeling maps to  explore people’s emotional response to the built environment, peruse the research study Mapping Feeling: An Approach to the Study of Emotional Response to Built Environment and Landscape.

Day 1

Step 1

Post and have students read and reflect on this excerpted statement from the Heatherwick segment:

The viewer’s emotional response is an essential part of any object’s function.

Ask students to pair up to discuss for five minutes what the quote means. If necessary, use one or more discussion prompts to get learners thinking about the connection between emotional response and an object. For example:

  • Think of a product you use. What motivates you to use it?
  • Is there an item at home that makes you remember something?
  • Is there a building in your community that always grabs your attention?
  • Is there a structure in school that makes no sense to you?
  • What service do you receive that always turns you off? And why?
  • What is something in your neighborhood that draws you in?
Step 2

Invite pairs to share their thoughts, which will be varied and emerge as themes. Record and categorize thoughts and themes.

  • Emotions: sad, happy, joyful, reflective, excited
  • Physical: uncomfortable, constricted, skeevy (perhaps associated with a place that is not clean), unsafe
  • Mental: scared, anxious, stressed, concerned, confused
  • Visual: dull, bright, engaging, ugly, beautiful, inviting

If time permits: Have pairs categorize the themes using a spider map. Each team posts its spider map for peer review followed by a class discussion of common themes.

Step 3

Briefly describe the impact of people’s emotional response to a product/object/service. Reference the following talking points when it comes to design:

  • Many designers believe products should have high levels of usability and offer enjoyable emotional experiences.
  • A disconnect between the user’s wants, needs, or expectations and the perceptible characteristics of the product almost inevitably leads to disappointment or some other negative emotion.
  • When the product satisfies and meets the expectations of the user, designers move ever nearer to inducing a positive emotional response. (Source: Positive Emotional Responses)
  • Emotional design strives to create products that elicit appropriate emotions, in order to create a positive experience for the user. To do so, designers consider the connections that can form between users and the objects they use, and the emotions that can arise from them. The emotions a product elicits can strongly influence a user’s perceptions of it. (Source: What is Emotional Design?)
Step 4

Introduce students to Thomas Heatherwick (refer to the Articulate segment transcript and artist bio). Explain that Heatherwick embraces human-centered design in his architectural approach in the built environment—all of the physical parts of where we live and work (e.g., homes, buildings, streets, open spaces, and infrastructure).

Show students the segment.

Step 5

After watching the segment, ask students:

  • How do people’s reactions to or engagement with the built environment lead to more imaginative design in the built environment?
  • How does human-centered design “have the power to turn a place into someplace,” as Heatherwick says?
  • How can people contribute to the built environment in their community?
Step 6

Divide students into teams of 3-4 members. Instruct students to think about a particular structure or location in their school (or they may opt to focus on the entire school building) and how they respond to or interact with it. Explain that it is possible that they have had many responses to it over time but never stopped to analyze these reactions and their emotional impact. Each group should come to consensus on and focus on one element.

Step 7

Distribute and explain how to use the Feeling Map (see instructions and sample) to all students. The teams review the maps and then discuss what design elements can be enhanced, eliminated, and or redesigned/reconstructed to ensure that the element offers a richer emotional experience, is more human centered, and features, as Heatherwick states, imagination and distinctiveness.

Step 8

Teams share their solutions with the class, providing rationale based on their emotional responses and the outcomes they anticipate.

Students discuss how their understanding of the link between emotional response and the urban environment might influence how they view and interact with architecture in the future, and whether their perspectives can contribute to communal design of new structures in their communities.

Optional Assignment

Students can watch the video What is Human-Centered Design to further their understanding of the practice and to prepare for the task in Day 2 of the lesson, which is optional.

Optional Day 2

Step 1

Invite students to visit the location in the school building that they reflected on to briefly observe how others in their school respond to/interact with it to further their initial discovery in Lesson 1.

Step 2

Drawing on these observations and then revisiting their initial design ideas, have them sketch the redesign they envision (they can do this while at the location, if desired). Given that they cannot rebuild or fully redesign, invite them to consider ways they can immediately make the element more human centered. For example, perhaps in the cafeteria, tables are reconfigured or moveable eating cubicles are available to improve ambiance, and make the eating experience more enjoyable.

Step 3

Students share their ideas with the class for feedback on whether the proposed designs will appeal more to students’ emotions and change their behavior and interactions in that location.

Day 1

Step 1

Post via Chat or Screen Share and have students read and reflect on this excerpted statement from the Heatherwick segment:

The viewer’s emotional response is an essential part of any object’s function.

Step 2

Put the students in pairs into Breakout Rooms. If necessary, use one or more discussion prompts to get learners thinking about the connection between emotional response and an object. For example:

  • Think of a product you use. What motivates you to use it?
  • Is there an item at home that makes you remember something?
  • Is there a building in your community that always grabs your attention?
  • Is there a structure in school that makes no sense to you?
  • What service do you receive that always turns you off? And why?
  • What is something in your neighborhood that draws you in?

Questions can be read aloud before students go into breakout rooms and/or broadcast to the breakout rooms.

How to Broadcast:

  • Click Breakout Rooms in the meeting controls.
  • Click Broadcast a message to all, enter your message and click Broadcast.
Step 3

Invite students to Unmute and share their thoughts, which will be varied and emerge as themes. Record and categorize thoughts and themes.

  • Emotions: sad, happy, joyful, reflective, excited
  • Physical: uncomfortable, constricted, skeevy (perhaps associated with a place that is not clean), unsafe
  • Mental: scared, anxious, stressed, concerned, confused
  • Visual: dull, bright, engaging, ugly, beautiful, inviting
Step 4

Briefly describe the impact of people’s emotional response to a product/object/service. Share your screen and/or reference the following talking points when it comes to design:

  • Many designers believe products should have high levels of usability and offer enjoyable emotional experiences.
  • A disconnect between the user’s wants, needs, or expectations and the perceptible characteristics of the product almost inevitably leads to disappointment or some other negative emotion.
  • When the product satisfies and meets the expectations of the user, designers move ever nearer to inducing a positive emotional response. (Source: Positive Emotional Responses)
  • Emotional design strives to create products that elicit appropriate emotions, in order to create a positive experience for the user. To do so, designers consider the connections that can form between users and the objects they use, and the emotions that can arise from them. The emotions a product elicits can strongly influence a user’s perceptions of it. (Source: What is Emotional Design?)

Point out that this emotional response is at the heart of human-centered design, which essentially involves human perspective in design, which centers on people’s interactions with products. Reference aspects of the following quote to further understanding of human-centered design.

  • “Surely, emotion is at the crux of human-centered design. Firstly, we as humans are animate beings with feelings and emotions and factoring this into design will lift any project beyond a place or space in which humans merely function … Humans seek to do more than just function in their chosen environment. Humans benefit from interaction and connection, engaging the senses, and thus promoting an emotional response from within tugs at the intangibles within us. This can come out as a sense of belonging, connection, nostalgia and fulfilment. (Source: Can Human-Centered Design Foster Emotional Intelligence?)
  • “Yet urban architects have often paid scant attention to the potential cognitive effects of their creations on a city’s inhabitants. The imperative to design something unique and individual tends to override considerations of how it might shape the behaviors of those who will live with it. (Source: The Hidden Ways That Architecture Makes You Feel)
Step 5

Introduce students to Thomas Heatherwick (refer to the Articulate segment transcript and artist bio). Explain that Heatherwick embraces human-centered design in his architectural approach in the built environment—all of the physical parts of where we live and work (e.g., homes, buildings, streets, open spaces, and infrastructure).

Show students the segment via screenshare.

Step 6

After watching the segment, ask students:

  • How do people’s reactions to or engagement with the built environment lead to more imaginative design in the built environment?
  • How does human-centered design “have the power to turn a place into someplace,” as Heatherwick says?
  • How can people contribute to the built environment in their community?
Step 7

Divide students in breakout rooms into groups of 3-4 members. Instruct students to think about a particular structure or location in their school or another familiar public building and how they respond to or interact with it. Explain that it is possible that they have had many responses to it over time but never stopped to analyze these reactions and their emotional impact. Each group should come to consensus on and focus on one element.

Distribute the Feeling Map digitally or as a printed worksheet to all students and explain its use. The teams review the maps and then discuss what design elements can be enhanced, eliminated, and or redesigned/reconstructed to ensure that the element offers a richer emotional experience, is more human centered, and features, as Heatherwick states, imagination and distinctiveness.

Teams share their solutions with the class, providing rationale based on their emotional responses and the outcomes they anticipate. Students discuss how their understanding of the link between emotional response and the urban environment might influence how they view and interact with architecture in the future, and whether their perspectives can contribute to communal design of new structures in their communities.

Extensions

Extension 1: Drawing on User Experience

Creating products that users want is at the heart of user experience (UX) design—a process design teams use to create products that provide meaningful and relevant experiences to users.

Show students the Norman Door video to explore UX design through a real-world challenge. Have them share why UX design processes are essential to getting a product to as close as “right” as possible for the people who use them.

Explain that designers take specific actions to design effectively for users. The short version: Designers understand who they are designing for, focus on a specific problem, and come up with ideas. Reference Teaching UX Design to Teens for examples that demonstrate how this process unfolds.

Invite students to evaluate an object they currently use or even something in the school to determine how usable it is. If it’s a design “fail” at some or every level, learners use the design steps to ideate enhanced or new designs to ensure the product is people-centered, practical, and makes sense in terms of use. Have students create a sales pitch to potential users to demonstrate how the improved/new and improved product is ideal for their needs.

 

Extension 2: Imagination, Interpretation, Innovation

Heatherwick speaks to his experience noticing the similarities in the built environment across cities and how the response to this homogeneity should be greater idiosyncrasy and distinctiveness in order to highlight differences, much in the same way we value each other or our differences. Students can apply this concept to a select product they use to determine whether it’s unique in light of similar products in the same genre or whether it could benefit from a redesign that reflects more creative (yet still practical) interpretation, imagination, and innovation. Learners then redesign the product and present a visual or physical prototype that demonstrates modifications that are human centered, practical, and beneficial to users.

 

Extension 3: Architecture Revisited: Focus on Human Psyche

Students watch the Articulate segment Sarah Williams Goldhagen: Drawing On Your World to further explore the human element in the built environment. Goldhagen notes that architecture has a substantial impact on people’s mental, physical, and emotional health. That said, many architects continue to design buildings and structures that do not take into consideration how people respond to and interact with them, partially because traditional design focuses on the outside rather than the inside, where people will work, live, play, etc.

Students can compare and contrast Goldhagen’s and Heatherwick’s stance on human-centered architectural design, with a specific look at Goldhagen’s argument that architecture should be viewed not as an art form but as more of a civil right (consider how architecture influences education, for example). Students can visit buildings in their community (schools, hospitals, courthouses, post offices, etc.) to explore how they affect users (observations, interviews, empathy experiences, personal perspective) and determine what features can be enhanced to improve the human experience, with mental, physical, and emotional health at the forefront. A deeper dive can immerse students in an exploration of architecture and social justice.

Standards

Next Generation Science Standards

HS Engineering Design

HS-ETS1-2 Design a solution to a complex real-world problem by breaking it down into smaller, more manageable problems that can be solved through engineering.

HS-ETS1-3 Evaluate a solution to a complex real-world problem based on prioritized criteria and trade-offs that account for a range of constraints, including cost, safety, reliability, and aesthetics as well as possible social, cultural, and environmental impacts.

 

Common Core State Standards Initiative

English Language Arts Standards

SL.9-10.4 Present information, findings and supporting evidence clearly, concisely and logically such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, substance and style are appropriate to purpose, audience and task.

SL.11-12.4 Present information, findings and supporting evidence, conveying a clear and distinct perspective, such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning, alternative or opposing perspectives are addressed and the organization, development, substance and style are appropriate to purpose, audience and a range of formal and informal tasks.

SL.9-10.1 Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one- on-one, in groups and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 9-10 topics, texts and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.

SL.11-12.1 Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 11-12 topics, texts and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.