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Blog Prompt #5


Explore through image and text how the built environment affects (supports or detracts) who you are. Speculate in terms of frameworks clockworks, phenomena and oppositions.

The built environment is all around us. It is in the classrooms we study in and the sidewalks we walk upon. It is in our bedrooms, our bathrooms, our restaurants, and skyscrapers. It is even in our man-made lakes and landscaped parks. The built environment consists of any environment that we create for ourselves and our daily living. We interact with and based on its construction, function, and design, it can ultimately have a powerful affect on how we go about our lives.

However, the built environment is not often the most inviting or welcoming place. In many cases, it presents itself as desolate and uninviting, even threatening. When I think of bleak environments, my thoughts automatically gravitate to one place – one place that is central to my existence as a college freshman – the infamous dormitory known as Territorial Hall (cue dramatic “dun-dun-dun? music).

Now, I am not really complaining. The rooms in “T-Hall? are not the worst a college could offer. They each have carpeting and even air conditioning. The closets are quite big and there is enough room for two people to live relatively un-cramped. For the most part, they are satisfactory. But the construction and building attributes of the dorm are far from being conducive to educational and creative pursuits.

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The building is a framework of rooms. Every hallway and every space is exactly the same cookie-cutter shape and style. The white walls and florescent lighting gleam dully around every corner and the hall exudes a feeling more like that of an institution than a comfortable home. One word can describe the entire plan of the building: blah. The walls are paper-thin as well, so you can hear all about your neighbor’s relationship and social issues even if you don’t want to. The whole layout of the place is stifling and constricting. You are almost guaranteed zero privacy and zero opportunities for peaceful thinking about 95.5% of the time.

However, even in the bleakest and dimmest sense, the built environment like that in Territorial Hall offers us a blank slate - a blank canvas to express who we are as individuals. When we inhabit any space for any amount of time, we gravitate towards personalization. It's an instinctive phenomenon. We have natural tendencies to make our environment “our own? in a sense, to make us feel more comfortable and secure in our surroundings. At the start of the year, we were each plopped down in the most boring of spaces. But as time progressed, a clockwork situation evolved. Gradually, we added things to personalize our furniture and walls. Now, when you stroll through the hallways, it is not hard to find rooms exploding with colors, posters, and fluffy accessories in each person’s attempt to make their bland space more like home. At the end of the year, we will take everything down and pack up, returning everything to its original lackluster state. When next year’s freshman come to the U of M, “process personalization? will begin all over again.



This idea carries over into all inhabited space. The cubicles of an office building are almost always garnished with plants, trinkets, and family photos of the occupant. Even in prisons there is often some sense of personalization in inmate’s cells. Take Hannibal Lector for example. He did a little Martha Stuart-esq interior decorating of his own inside the cell he was kept in. It was creepy, but he made the space more comfortable for himself.


In all cases, human beings seek to personalize their surroundings and render them more livable. The built environment can make every attempt to limit the expression of character and detract from who we are, but I believe that no matter what, people will always find ways of making a space their own.

(pictures from my photos and http://www.best-horror-movies.com/image-files/silence-of-the-lambs-lector-cell.jpg, http://www.cubicles4less.com/Used_Office_Cubicle_3.jpg, http://farm2.static.flickr.com/1306/613159793_18269d45b0.jpg)