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 [such as happiness], felt they had more time available . . . and were less impatient . . . [those who] experienced awe were also more willing to volunteer their time to help others . . . more strongly preferred experiences over material products . . . and experienced a greater boost in life satisfaction.”

Case in point, the Mayan ruins of El Castillo/Temple of Kukulkan at Chichen Itza in Mexico (shown here), inspire wonder, admiration, and respect for human knowledge and accomplishment. Clearly, other spaces/places can produce the same feeling of awe.  Some are manmade, like the historic cathedrals of Europe, while others are natural, like the Grand Canyon and spectacular waterfalls – all are places that work.

Sally Augustin, PhD, is a principal at Design with Science . She is also the editor of Research Design Connections and the author of Place Advantage: Applied Psychology for Interior Architecture (Wiley, 2009). She can be reached at

This post is part of a series of Places that Work.

Categories: Architecture