Shaun Lockyer – Can Architecture Make Us Feel Better




15 JANUARY 2018

“ I think we have to at some point concede that, if we are to care about others and everybody else’s needs are as important as ours, that we have to give something up.  We all give something up in the interest of the common good.”



There is no doubt that I feel better when outside, when there is sunshine.  There is also no debate that Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a recognized phenomenon.  Medically, there is scientific logic and evidence that light promotes the production of neurotransmitters such as melotonin and serotonin thereby regulating sleep/wake cycles and mood respectively.  Then what about our artificial, constructed surrounds?  Can the spaces we create affect our mood and our biology in a similar way?  It seems that this topic can touch on a point of debate in the world of architecture and medicine.

Past, catastrophic failures in architectural social engineering (eg Pruitt-Igoe housing complex) have left many somewhat gun-shy about ambitious social manipulation.  More to the point, healthy architecture is seen as expensive and superfluous.  In bureaucracy, the end goal is completion of something on budget rather than the long term effect of that something.  In other words, the “end user” is the bureaucrat more senior than you, rather than the grieving daughter mounting a desperate vigil at the bedside of their critically ill parent.  Is intelligent Architecture in public buildings and facilities merely a fantasy?

For this episode I sat down with Shaun Lockyer to discuss these issues and many others.  Shaun is one of Australia’s most prominent architects. He was born and raised in South Africa and since moving to Australia as a young Architect, he has built an impressive portfolio of work. 

I sat down with Shaun to discuss relationship of Architecture to positivity and happiness, yet, without intending to, we also drifted into a recurring theme in the podcast, that of self-determination and looking after yourself.  We talk about routine and how to combat it with mindfulness.

We are all susceptible to falling into a trap of perceived or actual monotony if not conscious about our daily activity.  We are programmed to seek new experiences and stimulation.  For some, this does not come naturally.  I was interested that someone so undoubtedly at the top of their game, like Shaun, could be experiencing the same sense of “routine” as I was.

But this Podcast is mostly about how Architecture can affect our lives, prosperity and sense of happiness.  Throughout history one might argue that trends were so steadfastly desired that one could not possibly be happy if one’s dwelling did not possess all required cosmetic attributes.  So it may follow that if my house is well designed, I will therefore be happy.

More to the point, is it the case that we may be happy because we have a house that is larger than our neighbour, or because it has a pool room?  Or, are we more likely to be happy because the physical space itself appeals to our biology?  Where is the line between a psychological response and a physiological response? Perhaps it is no accident that Shaun’s wife, Julie, is a psychologist.

This is a broad reaching conversation which was a true pleasure to record.

Summary of topics covered:

  • Dealing with daily routine
  • The hierarchy of needs
  • What is success and is there an “endpoint”
  • Can Architecture change your life?
  • Is budget everything in Architecture?
  • The physical effects of Architecture
  • Authentic design
  • Realising your own fulfilment and values
  • Money and happiness.  How much is enough?
  • The psychology of Architecture
  • The consequences of high density development.
  • Considering functional implications of buildings and development
  • Funding positive Architecture
  • The importance of positive memories.
  • Improving the quality and sustainability of development and public spaces

Question: Are you chasing what you want or what you need? Do you want a bigger roof or a roof that doesn’t leak?

Please enjoy this conversation and leave a comment.

Remember to review and subscribe on iTunes while you are there.

Until next time.

Stay positive,


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