By Dr Stephanie Wilkie, senior lecturer in psychology at the University of Sunderland
Ask people what ‘home’ means to them and there is no doubt you’ll get a variety of answers.
Some people say it’s the bricks and mortar of their dream house, while others may talk about ‘home’ being where their family and loved ones are.
The answer might relate to a particular town or district – perhaps where you were brought up. And there are even people who describe their football team’s ground as their ‘home’.
I’ve been looking at the factors that go into creating a ‘home’. And what has already become clear is that it’s more than just the physical nature of the place where you live and the possessions you may have gathered there.
Understanding this difference between ‘home’ – a meaning associated with place – and ‘housing’ – a physical structure – is important.
And it may prevent us repeating the mistakes of the past when it comes to urban regeneration.
Building new houses and creating new neighbourhoods and communities has to go beyond architectural excellence.
Catering for the psychological well-being of the people living in them is vital, if we are to avoid the feelings of exclusion, alienation and frustration that came with many of the failed redevelopment plans of the Sixties and Seventies.
The research I am carrying out aims to identify these important ‘home’ factors. I am also working to pinpoint criteria to evaluate the surrounding environment in terms of its impact on helping to create a ‘home’.
Bonds with places and constructing your view of your ‘self’ through association to a place are important components for a place to be considered your ‘home’. But ‘home’ also has additional qualities beyond these two factors. And that is what we have been trying to determine.
We’ve been looking how a particular environment can also influence the mood and the mental wellbeing of people.
There is no doubting that the links between the important places in our lives and our wellbeing are strong and impact on how we may feel and act.
The challenge for architects and town planners is taking this information and using it positively to create communities and buildings that are seen as ‘home’.
There’s often a lot of truth in well-known sayings – and it appears perhaps none more so than ‘Home is where the heart is’.
It is that and so much more as well. And that’s something that everyone involved in planning needs to keep at the heart of their work as they build for our future
- Dr Stephanie Wilkie is Senior Lecturer in Psychology in the Department of Psychology at the University of Sunderland. She is an environmental psychologist interested in the transactional relationship between people and places. She is particularly interested the influence of places on the development of our sense of self; and how places impact the well-being of the individuals associated with them