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Exploring the psychological impact of historic architecture

   School of Science, Engineering and Environment

   Applications accepted all year round  Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

There is a wealth of research showing the benefits of natural environments on physical and psychological health and this has arguably led to a perception that nature is “good”, and the built environment is “bad”. Psychological theories propose that nature environments incorporate elements that are easier to process, allow for an escape from day-to-day thoughts, and are interesting enough to capture attention, but do not hold attention in a demanding way. These aspects have been shown to reduce stress, increase happiness, and improve thinking and decision-making, and this is known as psychological restoration.

The positive impact of natural settings has led to greater inclusion of nature within the built environment (i.e., the addition of green infrastructure such as parks, trees, and living walls and roofs). Yet there are limits over what can be achieved due to space restrictions and financial costs. Added to that, the restorative potential of the urban environment is being overlooked. Certain types of architecture in the built environment replicate the patterns and features found in nature, for example biophilic architecture and fractal architecture, often found in historic buildings. If these features are responsible for the restorative benefits of nature, the same restorative benefits should be found following engagement with historic architecture.     

The aim of this PhD project is to investigate the impact of historic architecture on wellbeing, emotion, and cognitive functioning to determine the restorative benefits of the built environment and gain an understanding of how buildings can be designed and protected to support health and wellbeing. Quantitative methods, such as eye-tracking and questionnaire studies will be used to measure engagement with varying building facades. There is also scope to use qualitative methods, such as photo-elicited interviews to explore the influence of place identity and personal connections with a building on psychological restoration.  

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