19 October 2023

Humanise campaign launched to stop the spread of boring soulless buildings

2 low 1080x540 acf cropped

Thomas Heatherwick today launches ‘Humanise’ – a 10 year global campaign to confront the public health issues caused by boring buildings and inspire the public to demand better.

Studies have shown that being surrounded by boring buildings which lack visual complexity
increases cortisol levels, causing higher levels of stress. There is now strong evidence
from the world’s leading psychologists and neuroscientists that our physical surroundings
profoundly impact our wellbeing, and new opinion research from Thinks Insight shows that
three out of four people (76%) in the UK think that buildings have an impact on their
mental health.

The Humanise campaign also examines the connections between boring buildings and the
climate emergency. 11% of annual global carbon emissions comes from construction and
building materials: five times the entire aviation industry. In the UK, 50,000 buildings are
knocked down annually, generating 126 million tonnes of waste. In the US, this rises to
around 1 billion square feet of buildings demolished and replaced each year, the equivalent
of half of Washington D.C.

“We have spent 100 years making buildings that few people love”, says Thomas
Heatherwick. “They get demolished and replaced, and demolished and replaced, over and
over again because nobody cares. And that generates extraordinary waste and massive
carbon emissions.”

To help solve this urban crisis, Heatherwick suggests one simple rule – a building should
be able to hold your attention for the time it takes to pass by it – and three core mantras
for the planners and developers who can make a difference:

1. Emotion as a function. Accept that how people feel about a building is a critical part
of its function.
2. 1000 year thinking. Design buildings with the hope and expectation that they will
last 1,000 years.
3. Prioritise door distance. Concentrate a building’s interesting qualities at the
two-metre door distance.

To mark the beginning of the campaign, a new book by Thomas Heatherwick has been
published by Penguin called ‘Humanise – A Maker’s Guide to Building Our World’, available now.

To sign up to the campaign, visit Humanise.org