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Welcome to Your World: How the Built Environment Shapes Our Lives
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Welcome to Your World: How the Built Environment Shapes Our Lives

3.60  ·  Rating details ·  227 ratings  ·  35 reviews
One of the nation’s chief architecture critics reveals how the environments we build profoundly shape our feelings, memories, and well-being, and argues that we must harness this knowledge to construct a world better suited to human experience

Taking us on a fascinating journey through some of the world’s best and worst landscapes, buildings, and cityscapes, Sarah Williams
Hardcover, 384 pages
Published April 11th 2017 by Harper
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Average rating 3.60  · 
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Jun 21, 2017 rated it did not like it
I still have an interest in the subject matter after reading this book, however, it was more of a written tour of various buildings than I was hoping for. The author also used "we" to conduct these tours, making what felt like presumptuous assumptions about her readers. The work was decidedly one-sided, with the message that nearly all of society's ills could be cured with better design, and contained only one brief mention that cultural differences might influence a person's reaction to the env ...more
Dec 03, 2017 rated it it was ok
This is one of those non-fiction books which has enough interesting information to make a really interesting long form article but not enough for a whole book. I found a couple passages really interesting but the vast majority of the book is just repeating the same ideas over and over again so the interesting information gets lost. Goldhagen focuses WAY too much on famous buildings designed by famous architects and she really doesn't get into the research and neuroscience or even everyday archit ...more
Aug 05, 2020 rated it liked it
Because I know almost nothing about architecture and design, I learned a lot of stuff from Sarah Williams Goldhagen's Welcome to Your World: How the Built Environment Shapes Our Lives.

The "built environment" was a new concept for me. It includes three levels of design: urban, landscaping, and architectural. The built environment affects our thinking, which is a form of situated cognition. We are mostly bad judges of the built environment:
"Not only are consumers disposed to prefer familiar, conv
Jun 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is a passionate and well written discussion of why design and architecture matter and how it would improve our society to assign good design a more important role in contemporary America as so much work here is poorly built (much by developers who only care about building cheaply and personal profit). Our society needs policies that support good design as it increases the well being of our society at all income levels. Other countries, such as Holland build better not because they are more ...more
Aligermaa Tse
Sep 23, 2017 rated it liked it
Had such a high expectation on this book, finished it just for the sake of it after putting it down several times. Content-wise, it was not bad but her narrative was boring. My mind kept wandering off while reading. Because urbanization is something I'm interested in, because she is a woman, I really wished I could have gotten something more substantial from this book. I gave 3 stars, hoping that the fault was with me, not with the book. ...more
Kristie Helms
Jul 16, 2017 rated it it was ok
I absolutely devour books about community, infrastructure and the "built" world. This book was such a light-weight on all of those levels, I was unable to finish it. ...more
Nov 12, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: listened
The prose is somewhat dry and labored, but deserves ample credit for pioneering an argument for "why architecture matters" rooted in cognitive science and social psychology. ...more
Jan 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed the description of how good design help buildings drastically improve our experiences and our lives. The case studies were also excellent. The studies of buildings that I've visited before were especially vivid, but the images in the print edition allowed me some insight into those that I hadn't experienced myself. At times, the language became really pretentious and unnecessarily academic. But that didn't detract from the overall message. ...more
Oct 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Fascinating! This would be an interesting read for anyone curious about the effects that built environments have on the people who inhabit them. As an architect, this book gave me much to think about, and having just finished it, I feel like I should read it again to pick up more of the info I probably didn't absorb in the first read. ...more
Nina Selezneva
May 21, 2017 rated it liked it
Interesting, but prolix and self-repeating.
Kathleen Flynn
This began very interestingly and seemed to run out of steam and grow increasingly jargon-filled as it went along. It almost seems like it would have been better as a long essay, or a Kindle single, than a whole book. But I did really enjoy all the color photographs and the discussions of specific buildings, like the Salk Institute, the Sydney Opera House, the Pantheon, the Sea Ranch development, and the Scottish house of Parliament.
Heidi Thorsen
Feb 23, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: instructional
I was disappointed with this book. I was hoping for a book that would provide useful information for designing a building that promotes physical and mental health for its occupants, but this was terribly academic.

“Enriched environments” enhance well-being, while chaotic and/or harsh environments inhibit well-being. Well, ok, so define an enhanced environment. No where in this book are the factors that make an environment “enhanced” clearly listed. From what I gather based on mentions throughout
Jul 27, 2017 rated it it was ok
The premise of this book is fascinating: the environment we find ourselves in shapes our actions, feelings and beliefs far more than we realize, and we must take that into account when designing our built environment.

Unfortunately, the book does not follow through on this premise, failing to deliver real examples that leave any sort of lasting impact.

Instead, it reads like a long-winded tour of a few dozen buildings around the world. There's too much emphasis on the author's architectural critic
Ailith Twinning
Dec 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017
The argument is important, and depressingly often ignored (There's not a single building that isn't either a concrete box, or a cookie-cutter house that's already falling apart in my entire town)

I have no idea how good the actual points are, not a topic I've researched, but I'm glad someone is doing the science, since we live in an age where only population control and capital gains have any value whatever, it is essential to provide an argument in favour of decent living standards and environme
Dec 02, 2017 rated it liked it
With sobering statistics on how much of the built environment is going to change over the next several decades, this book is a call to action against poorly designed buildings; a call for humanistic architecture. While the book doesn’t go as far as the early post-WWI Modern manifestos presuming that architecture could bring world peace, the author—siting numerous studies—makes the humanistic connection between the built environment and society. Lacking in the book is a vision on how the world ge ...more
Katie Johnstone
Nov 09, 2017 rated it it was ok
Structure needed clarity; could have accomplished more with fewer words.
Inna Naz
Nov 26, 2019 rated it did not like it
The book goes on and on with seemingly no premise. It goes through a bunch of tours of buildings with attempts at tying it back to a point. It says in the beginning that it will make a case to prove the importance of good design in buildings. Unfortunately it's written like the audience is intro architecture students between the jargon and pointed discussiin.. Basically it's a summary of all the things these students will learn in undergrad anyways. If the author had wanted to write a book on th ...more
You’ve probably experienced a feeling of excitement when entering a stadium, and the sudden hush of a place of worship. In her intriguing book Welcome to Your World, Sarah Williams Goldhagen describes how the design of built spaces can foster these emotions. An architect herself, Goldhagen’s book reads like a primer for first-year architecture students who may have never considered the outsize impact their artistic decisions (or lack thereof) can have on the way we experience buildings. By pulli ...more
Taylor Ellwood
Mar 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Welcome to your world is an intriguing book which explores how the environment we build around us affects us, as well as how we navigate that reality. What I find really fascinating is how the author integrates cognitive and bodily experiences into the book so that we're not just looking at the environment, but also our own place in space. If you want to understand space, building designs, or how you navigate the world around this is an excellent book to read because it provides you a way to loo ...more
Mar 07, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people interested in architectural design
I really wanted to like this book but I feel like it only skimmed the surface of environmental psychology and how the built environment can shape our lives. I was a bit disappointed that this book mostly focused describing iconic architectural buildings rather than looking at the urban environment as a whole.

Also, listening to the audiobook wasn’t the best idea on my part. I’m going to assume that the physical copy of the book includes photographs and pictorial examples to accompany the text an
Apr 14, 2019 rated it it was ok
I really wanted to like this book, but I couldn’t get very far because the author makes claims in pretty much every paragraph that are unsubstantiated.

For example, she says that the color red/red lights cause people to have anxious feelings and can even cause aggression. We’ve all heard this before, but can we take it seriously when it’s said again but nothing is cited to back that up? What if that was an urban legend we have all been passing around for years, and we need a book to straighten u
Feb 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A nice addition to the much need body of literature devoted to evidence based architecture. Like all passionate writers Goldhagen overreaches the science at times to describe conclusions that support her point, but in general there were few unacceptably biased implications and it seems as though the questions were approached with the sincerest of intentions. Well written and holds ones interest, even if it is repetitive at times.
Aaron Ambrose
Jun 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
I’m familiar with a lot of this material, just because my interests converge in a book like this, but Goldhagen goes deep into the social, psychological and experiential facets of how we act on, react to, and simply live in the built environment. Her writing style feels textbooky, but that’s easy to accommodate when you’re learning so much. Rigorously thought out, well argued, beautifully illustrated and produced, this book is persuasive as well as a great pleasure.
Jan 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
Not the kind of book I normally read & took me a really long time to get through. That being said, beautiful pictures of great design and a compelling case for the importance of design of the built structures around us and some interesting insights into what makes these designs good.

Makes me want to read a book on city planning to increase happiness, but maybe not for another few books...
Lauren (:
Jun 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
This book encapsulates my questions for studying architecture. I feel like I am still questioning, but I have some answers. There are some contradictory things throughout the book, and some things are subjective but that is design. It really struck hard on the point that design should be for everyone because of its influence on everything which interests me deeply.
Cool pictures to illustrate intuitive if subconscious responses to aspects of our built environment.

I would've liked something closer to a manual of design principles; this was an expository text verging on something like literary analysis (but for spatial, not literary, construction)....
Christopher Angulo
Dec 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
You probably only need to read the first half to get the gist of what the author wants to you get. It did open my eyes to the importance and major effect architecture has on many aspects of our lives.
Bob Shadel
Sep 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Nice compilation of architecture that can help to improve society; raise cognition and awareness; elevate human emotions; empower people; allow more realization of human potential -- and all this from better building of our homes, offices, schools, political centers, and more...
Oct 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
A trove of brilliant examples that make the analysis come to life.
That said, I'd like to see a bit more sustained analysis, and I'd really appreciate sophistication around the use of "nature." The unhelpfulness of that word pulses off the pages here.
Aug 28, 2017 rated it it was ok
How all modern ails are caused by bad architecture, and can be solved by constructing an anthropocentric context-aware "built environment". ...more
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Sarah Williams Goldhagen taught at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design for ten years and was the New Republic’s architecture critic until recently. Currently a contributing editor at Art in America and Architectural Record, she is an award-winning writer who has written about buildings, cities, and landscapes for many national and international publications, including the New York Times ...more

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