We can do better.

This is the fundamental message of Welcome to Your World: How the Built Environment Shapes Our Lives (Harper, 2017) by architecture critic Sarah Williams Goldhagen. Published this week, the book delivers a forceful indictment about the impoverished state of our constructed world, based on the author’s deep experiences as an itinerant architecture critic for the New Republic and as an instructor at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design. Most importantly, Goldhagen’s argument is not merely a matter of opinion; rather, it is based on enlightening studies in neuroscience and cognitive psychology that reinforce the consequential relationship between our buildings and ourselves.

Courtesy Sarah Williams Goldhagen

Courtesy Sarah Williams Goldhagen

The impetus to write Welcome to Your World can be traced to Goldhagen’s 2001 American Prospect article, “Boring Buildings.” “It is a truism to state that architecture composes the immediate physical environment of our lives,” she argued. “But in this country, we too often forget that high-quality architecture is also a social good, one that more than repays the investment.” In her new book, Goldhagen expands on her critique of culturally, aesthetically, and environmentally impoverished buildings with examples that she calls “four sorry places.”