Some history

Although IAPS was formally constituted in 1981, the emergence of the Association is earlier. Since the 1960s, there have been numerous developments in the field which started with the shared concerns of psychologists and architects who founded “Architectural Psychology”. Today the field has become more diversified and is often referred to as “People-Environment Studies” with theoretical and empirical contributions from several disciplines and professions.

It is worthwhile recalling that IAPS was founded and has developed owing to the devotion and commitment of people who have given their time for unpaid work as an elected Board member, as a coordinator of an IAPS network, as a contributor or editor of an issue of the newsletter or bulletin, as an organizer of an international conference, a symposium, or a young researchers workshop. The last decades of IAPS shows that there is a need for an international association that serves as an open forum for the sharing of ideas and research results by people concerned with people-environment relations from all continents of the world irrespective of their ethnic origin, their religious beliefs or their political affiliations.



The emergence of IAPS roots


Dalandhui is the name of the county retreat owned at that time by Strathclyde University, on the shores of Loch Lomond, a short drive north of Glasgow, UK. Its idyllic isolation made a curiously intense setting for the 50 or so people who met there for the first conference to introduce Architectural Psychology into Europe, over the weekend of 28th February to 2nd March 1969. David Canter, IAPS Founding Organizer, had organized what became known as the Dalandhui Conference. He had just completed his PhD on the psychological implications of open plan office design, after a degree in psychology at Liverpool University, UK. He was working as a psychologist within the School of Architecture at Strathclyde in the Building Performance Research Unit established by Tom Markus. So the label “Architectural Psychology” with a direct analogy to Educational or Industrial psychology seemed an obvious one for a conference to launch the new discipline they were developing.

The second Architectural Psychology Conference a year or so later, and the emergence of IAPS all had roots in Architecture Departments until Terence Lee became head of the Department of Psychology at Surrey University, UK, and asked David Canter to join him there and set up a Master’s Programme in Environmental Psychology in 1971. Then this was still regarded as somewhat maverick within the domain of academic psychology and most of the interest in the work they did came from architecture and planning departments. By the mid-1970s, most Schools of Architecture in the UK had a reasonable amount of psychology being taught by psychologists.

The attraction to many psychologists of the opportunities provided by Schools of Architecture was that they opened up the possibilities of psychology that was not so rigid and experimentally based as was then (and sadly often still is) the norm in many Departments of Psychology. According to David Canter (2006, IAPS Bulletin 30):

In architecture, we had ordinary people in real life. They may be patients in hospitals, or children in schools, people relaxing in their living rooms, or walking their dogs in the park, office workers trying to cope with heat and noise, or elderly residents of a nursing home trying to find some interest in life. The people we studied were not to be constrained by the demands of some rigid set of hypotheses or some artificially contrived experimental setup. For me, this freedom opened up a pathway that has taken me to a very wide range of topics, as varied as human behaviour in emergencies, the study of serial killers and rapists, and more recently prisoners’ experience of incarceration’ (…) ‘We may have been wrong to look for the influence of architecture on people as we realised at Dlandhui. We may be correct now to redress this balance and concern ourselves more with how people are influencing the nature of the environment, but unless we put as much effort as possible into understanding the interaction between these two processes we may find that in another forty years social scientists are still struggling to have their important messages heard’.

Figure above: Cover of the Proceedings of the 1st Architectural Psychology Conference held at Dalandhui, Scotland, from 28th February to 2nd March 1969. Note that the ‘house’ was made out of computer data cards, and the doll was used in studies of classroom design (IAPS Bulletin 30).

In 1970, on the last day of The Architectural Psychology Conference in Kingston-upon-Thames, UK, it was agreed that the next conference was to take place in Lund, Sweden three years later (1973). When editing the book of proceedings from the Lund Conference, it was labelled as the 2nd International Architectural Psychology Conference. There had been two previous conferences, one in Lund, 1967, and another in Dalandhui, 1969, both of which had been mainly national. However, this has caused considerable confusion in the numbering of IAPS conferences ever since.

During the last day of the Lund Conference (1973), it was discussed whether to establish an international association. Considering the number of already existing organisations in psychology, sociology, ergonomics and architecture, it was decided to take no step in this direction, at least not for the time being. Instead, a few of the delegates were asked to make preparations for another conference in two or three years’ time. The delegates recommended that since there had been several conferences of this kind in Britain and Sweden it would be a good idea if the next one were to take place somewhere else.

The encouragement for delegates to arrange the next conference led to Strasbourg, 1976, and Louvain-la-Neuve, 1979. Then things started to happen. During the last day of the Louvain Conference (1979), it was decided to form an international association. In a plenary meeting, the delegates nominated and voted for a provisional board. Rikard Küller was proposed as Chairman (President), and David Canter was nominated as Secretary (Figure below). During meetings that followed the outlines of the new association were drafted, and in 1981, IAPS became formally established.

In the beginning, IAPS stood for the International Association for the Study of People and their Physical Surroundings. It took many hours of discussion at a meeting in London, UK, to get this together, one purpose being to keep the two middle letters, AP, which previously had meant Architectural Psychology. Later the formal name was changed into the less cumbersome International Association for People-Environment Studies. As most will acknowledge, IAPS mainly deals with Environmental Psychology, which meant a widening of the original field of Architectural Psychology.

Here you can find the first interview about the history of the earlier years of IAPS. We started our interview series with the spoken history of the association by Professor David Canter. This talk was held on May 13th 2022 in Liverpool. We hope that everyone enjoys this conversation and that it can be informative for new generations of researchers who are interested in psychology, architecture, art, wellbeing and the built environment. To watch the video click on the image below.

Here we have a summary of the Conferences that are part of the history of the IAPS Association:

1967: Psychology Conference |Lund, Sweden.
1969: Dalandhui Conference, AP1 Architectural Psychology: “Courtship in the House of Blackdell” | Dalandhui, Scotland.
1970: AP2 Architectural Psychology: “Apprehension in the Convent” | Kingston, London.
1973: AP3 Architectural Psychology: “Revitalised Hope in Diversity” (and Herring) | Lund, Sweden (May).
1973: AP4 Psychology and the Built Environment: “Psychology First, Architecture Second” | Surrey, England (October).
1975: AP5 Architectural Psychology: “Education, Participation and Carl Marx” | Sheffield, England.
1976: AP6 Space Appropriation: “Space Appropriation Misappropriation” | Strasbourg, France.
1979: Louvain Conference, AP7 Conflicting Experiences of Space: “Conflicting Experiences of Space and Place” | Louvain La Neve, Belgian.
1979: AP7 Conflict & Narcissism | Surrey, England.
1982: IAPS 7 Home-Environment. Man-Environment: Qualitative Aspects “Midnight Cocktails in Gaudi’s Park Guell” | Barcelona, Spain.
1984: IAPS 8 Perspectives on Environment and Action “Talking to Plants and Mother Nature” | Berlin, Germany
1986: IAPS 9 Environments in Transition | Haiffa, Israel
1988: IAPS 10 Looking Back to the Future | Delft, Holland.
1990: IAPS 11 Culture-Space-History | Ankara, Turkey.
1992: IAPS 12 Socio-environmental Metamorphoses “Late Night Confessions in Marmaras” | Halkidiki, Greece.
1994: IAPS 13 The Urban Experiences | Manchester, England.
1996: IAPS 14 Evolving Environmental Ideals – ways of life, values, design practices | Stockholm, Sweden.
1998: IAPS 15 Shifting Balances – Changing Roles in Policy, Research and Design | Eindhoven, Netherlands.
2000: IAPS 16 Metropolis: Cities, Social Life and Sustainable Development Inter-multi-trans disciplinarity | Paris, France
2002: IAPS 17 Globalization & the new millennium | Corunna, Spain
2004: IAPS 18 Coral Anniversary | Vienna, Austria
2006: IAPS 19 Environmental health and sustainable development | Alexandria, Egypt.
2008: IAPS 20 Conference Urban diversities, biosphere and well-being: designing and managing our common environment |Roma, Italy.
2010: IAPS 21 Conference Vulnerability, Risk and Complexity: Impacts of Global Change on Human Habits | Leipzig, Germany.
2012: IAPS 22 Conference Human Experience in the Natural and Built Environment: Implications for Research Policy and Practice |Glasgow, UK.
2014: IAPS 23 Conference Transitions to sustainable societies: Designing research and policies for changing lifestyles and communities | Timisoara, Romania.
2016: IAPS 24 Conference The human being at home, work and leisure. Sustainable use and development of indoor and outdoor spaces in late modern everyday life | Lund, Sweden.
2018: IAPS 25 Conference Transitions to sustainability, lifestyles changes and human wellbeing: cultural, environmental and political challenges |Rome, Italy.
2020: First IAPS Online Conference. IAPS 26 Conference RUNNING OUT OF TIME. Setting the pace for future generations | Québec City, Canada.
2022: IAPS Online Conference. IAPS 27 Conference Global Challenges – Local Impacts | Lisbon, Portugal.