Architectural Impact on Humane Space
Environment cues performance in a university library
Looking through the wet windows of a university library, young eager minds of tomorrow sighed again this morning, “It has been raining a lot this summer in Tokyo.” The weather station unveiled the record consecutive rainy duration for 18 days to drive the city of Tokyo into wet, sticky, and messy land. The soil in the island has been generally sticky and messy so the urban workforce were exhausted by an extra grueling weather condition to reinforce the nature of Japanese sticky mentality, muddling through the long seasonal tunnel to see nothing but wet outdoors. Despite the long depressing weather, my few hours of work at a university library are a lot better than that of 26 years ago when I worked for a global beverage firm. The positive architectural impact has been realized in three dimensions: density, open space, and natural light. This awareness is based on the story of British magazine, The Economist, on the publication date of June 29th, 2019, which sketches the New York’s plan to upgrade the interior design of jails to house less prisoners. After reading the story to discuss the topic with friends in Tokyo, it evolved to identify the environmental impact on efficiency of my research at university library. This short Medium story explains an impact on my study at library. The theoretical challenge in this topic is, “Does environment cue performance?” My tentative answer is yes, and to some extent the theory supports my argument in various circumstances.
My employment at a global beverage firm began on June 21st, 1993, exactly 26 years ago when my family and I returned from Atlanta, Georgia, to a crowded city of Tokyo. My office at the firm was buried in the dark basement of its annex building in Shibuya. As opposed to fresh young adult area of Shibuya, the annex office was sitting old worn boys dressed in an orthodox suit. During the office hours in the packed basement, no natural lights shed the desks from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. The official 8 hours of work on Monday through Friday were printed on the annual report of the firm but the actual working extended to 9:00 pm. When the clock hit 9:00 pm sharp, employees quietly left the basement office for a packed train ride home. Almost everyday, 12 hours in the office, there was no natural light in the densely populated department. There was no way to know if it started to rain or not.
The interior office design was intended to achieve productivity and privacy, even among internal employees of the firm. Partitions in the cubic style were firmly laid out for 40 senior managers and engineers of the research department. It was very depressing at the basement. It was never a prison but like prison, which consistently required workers to take a short break for refreshments such as fresh air and coffee.
The story of the Economist, “Boutique slammers” with the architecture in prison illustrates the rehabilitation over retribution in New York City prisons. With corruption and cruelty in common, Bill de Blasio, city’s major, plans to reverse the trend to replace Rikers Island Jail with four smaller and less crowded jails near courthouses in districts. Rather than packed into more population, the new plan houses less than 1,500 inmates at each jail, dramatic drop from the current population of 8,000 at Rikers. Less density is definitely better at achieving rehabilitation.
The New York officials and prison builders visited the architectural model building in Denver, Colorado. The city held 1,500 bed prisoners in Van Cise-Simonet Detention Center, opened in 2010. According to the newspaper, it looks like a museum or a university library. The interior is notable for its open spaces and the natural light, which in theory reduces violence. Sunlight and better acoustics improve life.
Now back in the rainy days of muddy summer in Tokyo, I look out through the windows to see the ever-lasting rain falling on trees and adjunct roads to the university library. The library is very quiet, much less crowded during week days than ever before, and natural light coming through the windows to illuminate the widespread desk. It is 9:00 am in the morning to occupy the acoustic desk. My decisive choice resides to grab a chair right next to the window of the open environment, not cubic design with vertical partition for zoning constraints to block the sight of other people. Sunlight will soon comfort everyone, including myself, for more humane spaces. The reflection of office condition 26 years ago has quietly been existent in blur memory, but my inner voice clearly knocks on me, “Environment cues performance”. University library on weekdays is the gifted place to spend a few hours of time. Walking through the fresh trees between parking lot and library building is an unbearably joyful moment in the summer.