Excerpts from Chapters 2 and 4 of Welcome to Your World: How the Built Environment Shapes Our Lives, by RECORD contributor Sarah Williams Goldhagen. Reprinted courtesy of Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.
The story of our relationship to our surroundings is revelatory, rich, multilayered, and, owing to the changing rhythms of the day and the operations of human memory, temporally complex. Experiencing the built environment involves more than how we process the swirl of sensory cues and impressions at the moment that we apprehend them. It also involves the prior knowledge we use to interpret these cognitions, as well as the way that we subsequently store them as memories, since, although what we think and experience usually seems wholly independent from the particularity of the place, when we remember such events, we unfailingly access something about the environments in which they took place. So we need to understand some fundamentals about the complex architecture of cognition—how people initially process sensory and mental impressions, as well as how we recall them. Through these fundamentals, we come to appreciate how pervasively the built environment permeates and shapes human experience.