365 Journal Questions, writing therapy
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Week 36 Questions for Know Thyself 2019: Architecture

This week’s journal topic: Architecture

Because of rising  housing costs and scarcity, renters are forced to choose properties based on criteria such as square footage and utility instead of artistic design. Buyers tend to purchase speculatively – a property that increases in value is a smart buy. However, despite not being at the forefront of decision criteria, the architecture of the buildings we inhabit should be taken into consideration.  Architecture matters to us for its subtle effects on daily life.  Hospitals, work spaces, homes… the buildings can harm or heal us psychologically and emotionally.

Markthal Rotterdam Netherlands

Markthal Rotterdam, Netherlands 2014

Why is architecture more than just structural design?

What is the purpose of a building?  The easy response is a functionally focused answer such as: providing escape from the elements, or providing a space for activities such as sports, learning, work, worship, or living.  The basic description of a building focuses on the physical aspect of what we want a building to do for us.

However, if you imagine the types of structures that human beings inhabit, it becomes apparent that buildings are not merely physical objects.  Behind the functional appearance, buildings express something transcendent – they bring forward aspects of a non-physical reality.  Therefore, architecture is an art form.

Most buildings express something transcendent, even if only as copies of greater structures. Well, perhaps the metal shed erected to house mom and dad’s RV is not artistic, but certainly the house is. Even ugly, communist architecture is art because it expresses political and social ideas – concepts beyond function.

How do structures transcend function?

Let’s examine five aspects of architecture aside from function!

BEAUTY – visually and aesthetically pleasing; eliciting a pleasant psychological state and emotional response with colors and shapes, etc.

PROPRIOCEPTION – interaction with the sense organs of the user and stir movement of/within the viewer; e.g., optical illusions, or spaces designed to compel movements, such as a hallway; creating surprise, disgust, and other physically-elicited, evolutionary emotions.

REPRESENTATION – representation takes many forms; e.g. physically representing other architectural styles as a copy, or portraying goals such as economic goals (wealth) or ecological goals (recycled materials).

EXPRESSION – architecture “speaks” using symbols and implicit meaning; sending ideas, messages, emotional meaning via design, materials, lighting, etc.

UNITY – a well-designed building is aesthetically pleasing often because it is unified in design; the whole consists of a unity of the parts.

Even unimaginative buildings tell a story.  And you thought a building was just a building.

Journal Questions:

  1. What architectural elements characterize your childhood home, and what psychological, emotional and/or moral effects do you think it had on you?
  2. How does your childhood home influence your current definition of a home building? (type, organization, structure, layout, spaces, heights, natural/unnatural lighting, unity of elements, etc.)
  3. In what ways do you think your home building mirrors or shapes how you act and think?
  4. Have you consciously chosen the materials and design of your home for emotional or psychological effect, or are you more concerned with practical elements such as utility and cost?
  5. Does the architecture or structure of your home “speak” to you? (symbols and meaning)
  6. What do prisons, communist architecture, institutional housing, and office buildings have in common? (Consider the buildings themselves and the spaces within the buildings.)
  7. Can you think of three changes using design/architectural elements that would help create a more inspiring space for yourself at home or work?

How to Get the most out of Know Thyself 2019:

Don’t rush through the questions. Do one question every day, leaving space to add thoughts later as you learn and evolve. The journal is designed to help you develop a consistent, daily practice of self-reflection.

If you liked this week’s topic, please offer me a like or a comment!  I’m writing a book, so if you want to know when it’s released, email me directly at emily@emilykluge.com to get on my email list! I love to hear your opinions about the topics and find out what you find helpful. Remember to subscribe with WordPress or an email address so you don’t miss out on future posts!  Thank you so much!


  1. proclus9 says

    This is a GREAT blog that touches on an issue not covered nearly enough in the media. Popular Victorian authors like John Ruskin were far more aware of the human aspects and effects of architecture than most people today. If anyone wants to see really imaginative and more livable architecture than we have today, check out the Italian city of Milan. The Milanese don’t accept steel and glass boxes such as predominate Canadian and American urban skyscapes. These boxes are just thoughtless; they don’t stimulate much thinking and are easily ignored to escape the boredom they arouse. They don’t stimulate intellectual and emotional interaction, i.e. a ‘dialogue’ between the viewer and the building. All architecture students should be required to live in Milan for a year!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. proclus9 says

    Ruskin’s “The Stones of Venice” are an excellent place to explore an architectural world view that presents a real alternative to Bauhaus’s functional glass and steel boxes. These so-called “machines for living” have a militant ‘anti-life’ feeling about them, i.e. machines and humanly sterile enclosures whereas Ruskin taught there is no wealth but life. Architecture should express this feeling of ‘aliveness.’ Who really wants to live or work in a machine?


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