Study finds urban architecture to be just as important as green space to our health and happiness

by Kim Megson | 10 Jan 2016

New research published by the University of Warwick in England suggests that urban architecture may have a far greater impact on our wellbeing than previously thought.

While many studies have linked an abundance of green space with physical and mental wellbeing, new evidence suggests that the cohesion of architecture and design in our every day environments plays an equally important role in health and happiness.

Using Scenic-Or-Not – a website specially designed to collect public ratings – researchers asked people to score the ‘scenicness’ of 217,000 images taken from around Britain. In total 1.5 million ratings were gathered and compared to data from a national 2011 Census showing how residents in those areas reported their health and wellbeing.

The study made two surprising findings: areas rated as ‘scenic’ were often not green areas, and people living in ‘scenic’ built environments reported higher ratings of health and happiness than expected.

Among the London areas rated as particularly scenic were St. Pauls Cathedral, Canary Wharf, the O2 Arena and Kensington Palace.

“We were surprised to see that the definition of scenicness was so varied,” Chanuki Seresinhe, a PhD student with the Behavioural Science Group at Warwick Business School, told CLAD. “As well as rating stunning natural landscapes as scenic, it was fascinating to find that people also rated images of beautiful buildings and bridges as scenic too.

“Our study provides initial evidence that even in urban areas, just introducing green spaces is not enough. It seems that the aesthetics of the urban environment is also important for people’s wellbeing.”

Seresinhe described the findings as “great news for urban architecture”, adding that architects and developers should think more carefully about how infrastructure, private and commercial buildings and public space can influence our quality of life.

Previous studies into how urban environments impact on wellbeing have been published by the University of California, which found cities which promote physical activity gain a significant economic advantage, and the European Centre for Environment and Human Health, which said living in an urban area with green spaces has a better impact on mid to long-term mental wellbeing than winning the lottery.

Architecture  design  built environment  study  health  happiness  wellbeing  green space 
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New research published by the University of Warwick in England suggests that urban architecture may have a far greater impact on our wellbeing than previously thought. While many studies have linked an abundance of green space with physical and mental wellbeing, new evidence suggests that the cohesion of architecture and design in our every day environments plays an equally important role in health and happiness. Using Scenic-Or-Not – a website
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St Paul's Cathedral was rated a very 'scenic' piece of architecture / Nikopol
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