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The Shaping of Us

How Everyday Spaces Structure Our Lives, Behavior, and Well-Being

Lily Bernheimer (author)

What makes everyday spaces work, how do they shape us, and what do they say about us?

The spaces we inhabit– from homes and workspaces to city streets—mediate community, creativity, and our very identity. Using insights from environmental psychology, design, and architecture, The Shaping of Us shows how the built and natural worlds subtly influence our behavior, health, and personality. Exploring ideas such as “ruin porn” and “ninja-proof seating,” mysteries of how we interact with the physical spaces around us are revealed. From caves and cathedrals to our current housing crisis and the dreaded open-plan office, Lily Bernheimer demonstrates that, for our well-being, we must reconnect with the power to shape our spaces.

Have you ever wondered why we adorn our doorframes with moldings? What does Wikipedia’s open-source technology have to teach us about the history and future of urban housing? What does your desk say about your personality? From savannahs and skyscrapers to co-working spaces, The Shaping of Us shows that the built environment supports our well-being best when it echoes our natural habitats in some way. In attempting to restore this natural quality to human environments, we often look to other species for inspiration. The real secret to building for well-being, Bernheimer argues, is to reconnect humans with the power to shape our surroundings. When people are involved in forming and nurturing their environments, they feel a greater sense of agency, community, and pride, or “collective efficacy.” And when communities have high rates of collective efficacy, they tend to have less litter, vandalism, and violent crime.

Playful and accessible, The Shaping of Us is a delightful read for designers, professionals, and anyone wanting to understand how spaces make us tick and how to fix the broken bits of our world.


“At a time when so much of life is lived online, Bernheimer’s fascinating book offers an accessible, deeply researched, and worldly exploration of the way concrete environments shape how we feel about our lives and the world around us.  ”

J. K. Dineen, author of Here Tomorrow: Preserving Architecture, Culture, and California’s Golden Dream

“You are going to be transported by what Bernheimer has to say. You’ll make different decisions and figure out how your brain is working and what should be prioritized in your life.”

Jo Good, BBC London

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The Shaping of Us cover
  • Price: $26.95
  • Pages: 336
  • Size: 6 X 9
  • Published: Aug 2019
  • Status: Available
  • ISBN: 9781595348722
  • Price: $26.95
  • Published: Aug 2019
  • Status: Available


Architecture, Environment, Landscape