The Psychological Effects Of Dormitory Architecture And Layout On Residents

2435 words - 10 pages

The Psychological Effects of Dormitory Architecture and Layout on Residents

For many students, part of the experience of going to college is living in university housing. With so many young people living in such facilities, it is certainly worth investigating how they affect their denizens from a psychological perspective. It is established that one's environment is a major determinant in one's emotional and mental state. This paper will focus on architectural elements, such as floorspace, room layout, and occupancy levels of University residence halls, and how said design elements enhance or impede human interaction and individual moods. In addition to a general overview of the ...view middle of the document...

The walls of a dormitory are typically not well designed to buffer sound from adjacent units. As one resident of Nathaniel Salley Hall stated, "It's amazing how much sound gets through these concrete walls."

In Architectural Environment and Our Mental Health, Clifford Moller states "Individual identity is cherished and strengthened in periods of solitude and conditions. But this identity-"self-hood"-is not achieved at all without an early and continuous interaction with other persons."(95) Bearing this in mind, while dormitory architecture should provide private space for the individuals living within it, it is of equal importance that it promote a sense of community. Sadly, many Florida State residence halls are built in such a way that community beyond that of room or suite mates is poorly supported. By far the worst offender in this regard is the long double-load hallway. This common structure is the long straight hallway with doors directly across from one another and leading to separate dormitory units. While convenient from a practical standpoint, it is rife with problems in terms of its psychological effects. It creates, according to C.M. Deasy in Designing Places for People, "a no man's land that doesn't belong to anyone"(51). This sort of division of rooms by an area which no one takes direct responsibility for tends to limit social interaction. This is not to say that such shortcomings can not be overcome by conscious effort, but it does tend to divide individuals into small groups defined by immediate and unavoidable contact. These tendencies are reinforced by the fire code requirement that doors not be propped open. This confluence of factors makes it quite easy for an individual living in a dormitory to almost completely avoid contact or social interaction with other tenants of the hall.

Most dormitories are, by most standards, overcrowded. According to Russell Murray of Queen's University in Belfast "any household where there are more than 1.50 persons per room is considered to be overcrowded. Many local authorities are tending to regard a level of 1.00 person per room as the cut-off point". (Canter, 113) Compare this to the standard densities at Florida State University residence halls. Because of the suite configurations and triple or single occupancy rooms found in some halls, it is very difficult to determine exact occupancy, however a conservative estimate would place the number right around 1.50 persons per room, higher than is generally considered desirable. While the aforementioned occupancy loads are actually figures used by British social services and urban planners, they are applicable to the United states as well, as Britain and the United States enjoy roughly equivalent standards of living. It might, however, be too broad to say that dormitory occupancy load can be determined solely by person-to-room ratios. It is also important to consider the per capita floor space provided in the average Florida...

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