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Airdate: Oct 10, 2019
Scientist: Colin Ellard

Dead Buildings

Dead Buildings
A cityscape can affect our well-being in unexpected ways.

Dead BuildingAmbience: City Traffic Feeling a bit out of sorts as you stroll through the streets of a city? Well, you could blame the architecture. I'm Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet. Ellard: Standing right in front of me, it's what I would describe as a dead building.Colin Ellard is a cognitive neuroscientist and the author of Places of the Heart: the Psychogeography of Everyday Life. Ellard: If you look at at least the bottom ten feet of the building, which is really what people are paying the most attention to as they're walking down the street, it's very homogeneous. It's got two things not going for it as a building. One of them is permeability. Permeability means the way in which the street part of a building facade engages the street. As I walk along beside the building, are there things that I can look into? Are there ways that I can go into the building or see people coming out? This building has none of that. There's no permeability whatsoever. Even worse than that, the other feature of the bottom part of a building that influences us is complexity, the number of different kinds of features or design elements that are present in that part of the facade. It's boring. There's no variation in the textural elements on the bottom part of the building. As people walk along this block, you can actually see the effects of both the low complexity and the low permeability on their behavior. They won't look at the building because there's nothing to look at. Their walking speed is likely to increase. Their posture might even change. Sometimes people tend to look down at the ground in kind of a stooped, bored manner as they're walking past a building like this. When we walk we should be able to see and even feel the psychological impact of these kinds of differences in facade style.Pulse of the Planet is made possible in part by Virginia Tech, inventing the future through a hands-on approach to education and research.