On the Intersection of Emotion with Architecture

Henry W. Noe ’22

Opinions Editor

What feeling rises within you when you walk up the steps to Dinand library? Beauty? Awe? Anxiety? It is undeniable that architecture holds a kind of mystical power over those who reside in a particular community. What is most remarkable about the emotive response to seeing certain buildings is that it is unique for every person. If ten different Holy Cross students were asked to describe Dinand Library, or the towering and powerful O’Kane clocktower, or the Hoval, there would very well be ten different answers.

Although the built environment is designed to be meticulously planned and formulated about the disciplines of mathematics, engineering, and physics–emotions play a large part in how a building will be perceived. By sharing memories with a certain location, the building or built environment nearby is infused with an emotional dimension wherein the very sight of a certain building, while not designed to display emotion, can elicit a very emotional response from an individual.  

Interestingly, the destruction of the built environment can also bring about intense emotions. The bringing down of buildings which represent hate or animosity can not only elicit jubilation, but also, a wave of positivity which can be broadcasted and radiated, Similarly, the crumbling of a beloved structure, one revered in its environment and beloved by all, can mark the end of a certain golden age and symbolize the unstoppable march of time.

Structures can also be built in order to serve as a commemorative memorial. When seen, this style of architecture can bring about intense emotions from those who saw firsthand the very event the site is trying to commemorate. Additionally, the site can also conjure for the observer an idea of the magnitude of the event. This sect of architecture can bring about feelings of intense sadness, remembrance, or thoughtfulness on the past.

Domestic architecture also possesses this incredible emotive power. Over years of living in the same home, young adults leaving for college or moving out may find difficulty in separating themselves from the only abode they have ever known. On the other hand, parents may find that the the sight of their home may bring about feelings of safety, security, and love. Conversely, images of other domestic homes may conjure feelings of jealousy in homes they wish to reside in.

The built environment is something which is omnipresent in our daily lives. However, very rarely do individuals examine how the built environment may have an influence on themselves. Architecture stands as a permanent onlooker to our lives and daily interactions. Structures which were designed to possess form become formless in our mind and transformed to a private, distinct, and beautiful emotion that only you can know.

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