Sally Augustin

Places That Work: Mayan Temples

We get definite psychological benefits from feeling a sense of awe, so says recent research by Rudd, Vohs, and Aaker. Places that work can make us feel that rare emotion, as these researchers learned. In their study of people “who felt awe, relative to other emotions , felt they had more time available . . . and were less impatient…

Places That Work: Rocking Chairs in Waiting Areas

Air travel is a miserable experience these days and giving travelers some sense control makes the process somewhat less onerous. Some U.S. airports, for instance, provide rocking chairs for waiting passengers. These rockers offer another seating option to people, and having a choice, at least from a reasonable number of options, gives us a psychological boost. In St. Louis (pictured),…

Places that Work: Soundcape

In Orlando’s Peabody Hotel’s public spaces, a positive experience is created by the sounds of water flowing and splashing. Gently moving water makes us comfortable. Its rhythmic, primal sounds soothe away the everyday stresses of modern life. Though we have known, instinctively, about the psychological boost we get from listening to moving water–even before the effect was investigated by scientists…

Places that Work: U.S. Botanic Gardens

The United States Botanic Garden in Washington DC is a place that works because the greenhouses there stimulate all our senses. Transmitting experiences of a place through several senses is a central tenet of biophilic design. And at the Botanic Garden these pleasant experiences are due to much more than presence of plants. In fact, some of our best hospital…

Places That Work: Hearths

Even in our high tech age, hearths continue to enhance our experience of the rooms where they appear. The psychological power of a glowing, cracking fire safely tucked into a generous niche endures even though we no longer depend on its heat and light. When the fire is out, fireplaces can still provide a psychological boost. Their very presence in…

Places that Work: A Music Store on Michigan Avenue

Sometimes the places that work are places that shouldn’t work at all. The Sherry-Brener musical instrument store on South Michigan Avenue in Chicago is one of these. The shop is stuffed with merchandise; it’s small and gets almost no daylight. It is, however, a wonderful place to be, at least for shoppers. And the staff is always pleasant; this tells…

Places that Work: National Museum of the American Indian

The National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) is a place that works because it attempts to reflect the cultures of those who first inhabited the Western Hemisphere. Located on the National Mall in Washington DC and operated by the Smithsonian Institution, the NMAI opened in 2004. There were many Native American architects affiliated with the project, initially lead by…

Places that Work: The East Building at the National Gallery

The East Building at the National Gallery in Washington, DC opened in 1978. It’s a place that’s been working for the past three decades because the building’s structure literally supports the art it houses and aids its viewing. The architect, I.M. Pei, developed a structure that can share large artworks with the public. Unfortunately, this is not the case at…

Places That Work: The Power of Skylights

The Arthur M. Sackler Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC is almost entirely under ground, yet this is a place that works. It was designed by Jean-Paul Carlhian of Shepley, Bulfinch, Richardson and Abbott and opened in 1987. A quarter of a century later everyone in the design world knows about the psychological boost we get from being…