People were asked to vote on the least favorite shape and color. Universally across all ages and cultures, the ugliest shape is considered the rectangle, and the ugliest color is brown. It is ironic that in the last century of architecture, we’ve wound up covering our world in brown boxes.
Research has also found that people are calmer and happier when their surroundings are beautiful, and feel more anxious and depressed when their surroundings are neglected or monotonous. With eye tracking software of users looking at architecture, researchers have also found that humans glaze over monotonous boxy architecture and feel bored. When looking at architecture that has unique details, people are more engaged and feel excitement. Despite this, in the last century, we’ve transformed our cities to all look the same:
China used to look like this
Now Beijing looks like this
South Africa used to look like this
Now Johannesburg looks like this
Indonesia used to look like this
Now Jakarta looks like this
Alaska used to look like this
Now Anchorage looks like this
Germany used to look like this
Now Berlin looks like this
Beauty not only creates more joy in humans, it is also more sustainable. One example is the social housing blocks of the 60’s and 70’s created with the desire to house the maximum amount of people. Twenty years later, they are all being destroyed, as we’re finding they are simply not fit for human living. Buildings like the parthenon in Greece from 500BC still stand, as humans admire their beauty too much to demolish them. We call on designers & architects & city planners to consider this research, and to take beauty more seriously. We also call on artists & city planners to consider how unused & neglected spaces can be transformed in cities.