Environmental exposure is increasingly recognised as a predictor of human health and psychological wellbeing. In fact, the benefits of nature exposure on psychological wellbeing have received extensive attention from scholars. However, not much attention has been given to the consequences of exposure to city environments. This is despite the increasing urbanization trends worldwide. This paper addresses this gap and explores the influence of the built environment on the affective walking experience. It examines the ways in which walking in urban environments can support affect, looking specifically at the role of architectural styles and characteristics on the affective walking experience. The methodology included an experimental study with residents of Bristol (UK) (n=385) that compared affective outcomes of walking in five settings in Bristol city centre, and 14 photo and video-elicited interviews based on a real walk.
Quantitative results showed that simulated walks in pedestrianised areas without green elements were associated with affective benefits, as opposed to a commercial area with
traffic. In particular, historic architectural styles seemed to trigger positive wellbeing.
Building on these findings, the qualitative phase showed that post-modern and/or static architectures and non-human scale elements can have a negative impact on affect.
On the other hand, several enablers emerged, and these included historic elements and architectures, identity-elements, urban variety, and presence of green infrastructure.
These findings highlight that in order to make cities more healthy it is important to maintaining a human scale and to promote features that reflect the identity of place.