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Main - Author Talk: The Shaping of Us by Lily Bernheimer

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 “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. 

Lily is an environmental psychology consultant, writer, and researcher who sees the transition to more sustainable lifestyles as an opportunity to create spaces that truly work for people. She has led human-centred design projects across the workspace, urban, residential, and incarceration sectors since 2007. At Space Works, Lily has specialized in developing evidence-based design strategy and metrics for workplaces and other complex environments. Outside of Space Works, you can find Lily cycling, watching sci fi films, and discussing the difference between British and American jumpers. 

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