Dept. of Architecture

ARC 564: Architecture and Society

Instructor: Edward Steinfeld


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Discussion Questions

Under each topic below is a set of questions to be used in the class discussion for the unit.  Students should be ready to have an intelligent and informed discussion on any of the questions listed below.

Claiming Space

1. A man enters a men’s room to use a urinal. In each scenario below, which stall would he use? An x indicates an already occupied stall.

#1    | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 |            #2    | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 |
               x        x                                  x

#3    | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 |            #4    | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 |
                                                                x         x        x

#5    | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 |            #6    | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 |
              x              x     x                       x    x             x    x

2. What are the social functions of territory and personal space?

3.  What are the social interaction zones and how are they used?

4.  Why don’t people like to sit in the front row of a lecture hall or place of worship? How can this tendency be accommodated through design?

5.  Is there a difference between territorial behavior and personal space behavior?

6.  How could planting hedges in a yard increase security?

7.  What are the trends in contemporary office design from the perspective of territory and personal space?

8.  What potential problems might be encountered in the new "changing workplace"? How can these problems be avoided?

Information Flows

 1. Which of the following are examples of privacy behavior ? Why or Why not?

       a. when guests avoid arriving at a party too early

b. putting a "do not disturb" sign outside a hotel door

c. complaining about the loud rock music next door

d  locking a bathroom door when you're using it

e. knocking on a closed bathroom door before opening it up

 2. In which of the following social relations can privacy needs influence architecture and vice versa? How would you design a home to provide the level of privacy expected in American culture?

a. treatment of visitors in the home

b. relationships between age groups

c. relationships between the sexes in a family

d. relationships with in-laws

3. How does the visual access/exposure model apply to design of a Cancer Care Center? Give some examples.

4.  What are the spaces in the Cedars-Sinai Cancer Center where privacy concerns are critical issues in the design for the patients? How well does the Center serve the patients in this regard? How might you have designed it differently?

5. How did privacy concerns of the staff and administration affect the design? What impact might this have on the patient's perception and response to the Center design?

Organizing Space

1.  According to the terminology used in spatial syntax theory, which of the following would be "inhabitants" and which "residents" of a museum?

shopper at the museum shop

student on a class trip

clerk at the museum shop

museum guard


artist hanging her work for an exhibit

2.  Which of the following would be "visitors" in a prison ?

a guard

the warden

a lawyer of a prisoner

a prisoner

3.  In terms of spatial syntax, if a person tends to be found occupying a space "deep" in the building, it indicates that he or she is probably a powerful person in the organization with the exception of one type of building. What type of building is the exception and why?

4.  Describe the two basic relationships of spaces to one another in spatial syntax theory and how  they affect social interaction patterns.

5.  Is the spatial syntax diagram of a building always closely related to its function?  Give some examples.

6.  What are the two basic patterns of spatial syntax?


1.  Explain the role of space in the formation of social networks.

2. What is a reference group and why is the profession one? What implications does the concept of reference group have on design?

3. Is the profession a social world? What implications does the concept of social world have on design of buildings?

4.  How does cognitive mapping relate to the concept of reference groups and social worlds?

5.  Why is the Salk Center more than just another building to architects?

6.  Describe the differences in meaning of the Salk Center from the perspective of different reference groups.

7.  Can one have shared meanings between reference groups?   How?

Architecture as Signification

1.  Speculate on the differences in architectural styles from the perspective of semiotics.

3.  What is behind the current resurgance of traditionalism in architecture?

4. What is the difference between the traditionalism of the architects designing in the classic styles described in "Learning by the Rules" and the traditionalism of commercial homebuilders?

5.  Describe the  signification system of the rebuilding efforts you are studying.

6. How can physical traces be used to understand a signification system in architecture? Use some of the photographs in the reading on Traces to make your point.

The Iron Cage

1. Explain the conctept of "The Iron Cage."

2. What are the key characteristics of McDonaldization?

3. What impact does formal rationalization have on the practice of architecture? Give some examples.

4. Are there examples of formal rationalization in the events that you are studying? How were they manifested in the prior environments, the disruptive event and the rebuilding efforts? Are there differences from event to event?

Fortress Architecture

1. Can architecture make a difference in crime prevention? In what ways?

2. What are the by products of an architecture that is focused on crime prevention? Consider the meanings of the building.

3. Is Mike Davis exaggerating his case? Check the web for criticism of Davis.

4. Is the concept of militarization of the environment evident in the events you are studying? How have things changed between the original environment and the rebuilding efforts? Was the change for the better or the worse?

Gendered Spaces

1. How does the single family American home reflect gender norms and expectations of social roles for women and men?

2. Do American cities and house forms contribute to violence against women?

3. Why does Weisman think public housing is a "female ghetto"?

4. Are their examples of "gendered spaces" in the events and rebuilding efforts you are studying? Why or why not?

5. What environmental interventions might Weisman recommend to improve the rebuilding efforts you are studying?

Themed Environments

1. What are the characteristics of a themed environment?

2. What are the factors that have spurred the development of themed environments?

3. Is there evidence of theming in the rebuilding efforts you are studying?

4. How can architectural signification systems contribute to theming? Give some examples?

5. Is theming consistent with the values of the profession?


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Last revised 1/11/06

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