Planering, arkitektur och design - Mango arkitekter



'Six human needs' and the urban environment"
By Maria Rundqvist & Mikael Bäckman

Anthony Robbins ideas regarding the six human needs are not specifically meant to be used in the context of spatiality and urbanism, but since people daily use their environment it could be interesting to challenge his ideas in the context of urban design.

We suggest our surroundings play a vital role in creating an arena for the fulfilment of various human needs. The goal in planning urban environments must be to invite constructive and positive activities to take place and avoid creating environments that encourage the opposite.


Certainty and uncertainty are two of the strongest human needs. Every person accepts different amount of certainty/uncertainty. What we all have in common is that too much of certainty leads to boredom and too much of uncertainty leads to anxiety. Boring environments in turn, easily produce destructive behaviour which in turn increases other people’s anxiety.


If the response to this increased anxiety is walls and fences, the demand for certainty further drains the urban environment of variety, novelty and serendipity. The truly sociable environments fulfils both people’s need for certainty and comfort and also the need for uncertainty and variety. In the figure above, we have tried to illustrate our view on how the relationship between certainty/uncertainty and sociability expresses itself in the urban environment.


Significance and love are paradoxical needs. People have a wish to feel needed, unique and important, but too much of uniqueness or importance pose a threat to others and you become an ‘outsider’ or a person who few will appreciate or love.

Significance can be achieved in numerous ways, where violence and racism are examples of destructively achieved significance and parenthood or the development of advanced skills are examples of constructively achieved significance. Street artists and places where one can ‘show-off’ ones skills are examples of how significance can add sociability to the urban environment.
By sharing the same experiences we can connect to others. We can also gain communion and love through religion or simply by just loving others. A destructive way to gain love is by creating problems so others will connect to you. Vandalism and crime can be perceived as a symbolic call for help; for being noticed and loved. We believe that an urban environment which is rich in sociable meeting grounds and offers a large variety of spaces where one can feel connection and oneness with others, can become almost as vaccinated against the destructively based calls for love and significance.


Growth is an essential need that drives people to attempt to become all that they can be. For people at all ages and at all stages of their life, the urban environment should provide opportunities for challenge and learning. It should also encourage us to participate, in order for us to be able to confront our believed limitations and evolve beyond them.


Contribution is a primary need in the human being. In order to feel complete and fulfilled we need to find a way to contribute and serve others without demanding reward. Since this is an essential need it is important to encourage people’s wish to give of their resources and time. If the urban environment is open for citizen’s contribution and creative initiatives, we feel, much is to be gained.