Enric Pol
Faculty of Psychology
University of Barcelona



In this article the development of Environmental Psychology in Spain is reviewed, taking into consideration the preceding events and the present-day situation, in academic as well as professional circles. The main areas dealt with are the following: cognitive maps in cities, the nexus between time and space, childrens notions of space and city, quality of life, space in blind children, school environments, residences for the elderly, prisons, environmental impact. The main challenge now is the creation of a professional profile that favors the existence of research funding and stable jobs in this area. It is one consequence of interdisciplinary research projects and applications.


The literature from the first third of the century regarding preceding event in the human person-environment relationship is not strictly psychological in its formal aspects. However, in terms of its objectives and type of proposals this literature could be deemed psychological. The work of Ramon Turro (1854-1926), of the Psychological Institutes, of the "hygienists" movement working towards a healthier environment, of the "Group of Artists and Technicians for the Progress of Architecture", influenced by the aesthetic and social thought of the Bauhaus and Le Corbussier, contemplate the social influence of the organization of space. The Spanish philosopher Eugeni D'Ors described exactly the ideal setting in which specific human values in both individuals and in social relationships could be encouraged. This had a great influence on the Catalonian movement "NOUCENTISME" ("Nine-hundredism"). Another Spanish philosopher, Ortega y Gasset placed an emphasis on the "circumstantial" aspects and the conception of the world in order to comprehend individuals and society. Ortega y Gasset along with Heidegger, Husserl and several authors from Germany and U.K. influenced the thought of Pinillos, who throughout his book of 1977 made the distinction between this first historical moment and what Kruse and Graumann (1987) would later call a "second birth" in the 70's. These two periods appear to be dismantled by the Spanish Civil War first and later on by Second World War.


At the beginning of the 70's some of the first translations began to appear, spurred on by architecture and urbanism which at that time were very responsive to socio-environmental questions related to urban space. This was due, as in the rest of Europe, to the urban concentration produced in previous decades by the technological changes and post war reconstruction.

The first specifically psychological book which was translated in 1972 was Psychology of Space by Moles y Rohmer (1964). The following year, Tomas Llorens compiled and published a series of articles chosen from Canter, Lee, Sommer and Stringer entitled Towards a Psychology of Architecture. Theory and Methods. This was the consequence of a colloquium sponsored by the "Colegio Oficial de Arquitectos de Cataluña y Baleares" (The Professional Association of Architects in Catalonia and the Balearic Islands). In his introduction, Llorens stated that "... with this book the Psychology of Architecture, or the Psychology of Environment make their entrance into Spain..." (p. 7).

During the 70's, the Institute of Studies of the Local Administration and some private publishers in the area of architecture played an important role. They translated and published some texts of importance to environmental psychology, such as those of Hall (1973), Sommer (1974), Sennett (1975) or Rapoport (1974, 1977), among others. In any case, it wasn't until 1978 that the first manuals were translated, Environmental Interaction by Canter, Stringer and Lee and Environmental Psychology by Proshansky, Ittelson and Rivlin. The next year (1979) heralded those of Heimstra and McFarling and one by Kaminski and later on Lee (1981) and Levy-Leboyer (1985). After this initial boom, the translations appear to have abated, with the exception of some articles, special dossiers and a book by Holahan (1991). But this was then compensated for by documenting our own ideas.


1973 seems to have been an outstanding year. In addition to the previously mentioned collection edited by Llorens, the first studies of childrens notions of space and city appeared. These studies were carried out by the Catalonian architect Josep Muntañola, who was a key force behind environmental psychology. Furthermore the first publications on the subjective perception of natural landscapes emerged. These papers were written by the ecologist González-Bernaldez and his collaborators in Seville and Madrid. That same year, the Institute of Educational Sciences of the University of Barcelona held conferences regarding school environment. These conferences were infrequent.

In 1977 the first relevant paper from a psychological point of view appeared, which additionally served as a link to the research of the first third of the century. An essay by Professor J.L. Pinillos entitled Psychopathology of Urban Life was a critique on the effects of the city. At the start of the 80's the first lecture was published (Jimènez-Burillo, 1981), the first introductory manual and review was published (Pol, 1981) and also the first documented guide became available (Rodríguez-Sanabra and Fernández-Dols, 1982).


In addition to the publications outlined in the previous paragraph, the work of Hernández, Riba and Remesar (1985) is noteworthy as a general study of an epistemological nature in the Barkerīs approach. On the other hand, the Introduction to Environmental Psychology compiled by Jiménez-Burillo and Aragonés (1986) constitutes a useful instructional instrument. The volume compiled by Fernández Ballesteros (1987), focused on methodological aspects for environmental evaluations and is a useful and systematic contribution. Finally this overview can be completed with a socio-historical study of environmental psychology in each cultural area of Europe (Pol, 1988). Of course this does not exhaust the totality of publications which can be easily located.

The subject of Environmental Cognition was dominated at first by academically oriented papers which dealt with cognitive maps. The most noteworthy are the contributions by Aragonés and Arredondo (1985, Complutense University of Madrid) and Hernández-Ruiz (1986, the University of La Laguna, Canary Island) on cognitive maps, the formulation of "a-priori" and "a-posteriori" notions of symbolism oriented towards environmental assessment (Valera, Freixas et al. 1990, University of Barcelona), the incorporation of the dimension of time to the representation of space taken from the theory of social representations (Iñiguez, 1988, Autonomous University of Barcelona). In the epistemological and methodological reflections regarding cognitive maps, behavioral maps, naturalist observation techniques, processes of register and analysis, it is necessary to point out the prolific works of Anguera and her group (1987), as well as the work done by Riba, Hernández and Remesar (1984).

Another important and productive line is the developmental study of the notion of space and city among children, which has been steadily developing since first mentioned by Muntañola in 1973. This line of study started from epistemological-genetic assumptions, and the study of cognitive maps in children carried out by Aragonés and Corraliza (1988). A specific and at the same time original subject is blind children's notions of space (Gratacós, 1986; Ochaita and Huertas, 1986).

Undoubtedly, the subject which has emerged with the greatest force and which is most oriented towards professional work and problem-solving, is that related to Quality of Life. This has been stimulated by the demand on behalf of public administration and private companies. Studies regarding the perception and cognition of environment have been oriented towards assessment --either taking into account the affective aspects (Corraliza, 1987) or residential satisfaction (Amerigo, 1990; Aragonés and Amerigo, 1989). Quality of Life has been discussed as both an environmental and social problem (Blanco-Abarca and Chacón, 1985; Corraliza, 1988; Casas, 1989). Quality of Life is a complex construct. Environmental quality, appropriation of space, health and social welfare cannot be separated from it (Pol and Guardia, 1991; Pol, 1993).

Other areas of application that must be mentioned are: papers regarding school environment (Sancho and Hernández-Hernández, 1981; Spiee, 1984; Pol and Morales, 1986; Darder and Lopez, 1984); assessment of public squares (Muntañola and Presmanes, 1985); residences and residential areas for the elderly (Fernández-Ballesteros, 1987; Saura et al, 1983; Pol, Del Cerro et al, 1990); prisons (Muntañola and Saura, 1986; Pol, Esteve et al, 1992); the identification and the effects of noises (López-Barrios, 1986; Pich, 1988).

One specific case with a future is the assessment of the environmental impact. Spanish legislation since 1988 considers the study of social impact as well as the ecological factors mandatory in all studies regarding environmental impact. The revision of the subject is suggestive and hopeful seeing that the first professional steps have been taken in concrete studies by interdisciplinary staffs (Moreno, Saura, Sandoval et al, 1990; Valera, Bernaus et al, 1990).


From the beginning of the 80's, the most significant congresses of psychology have harboured areas on environmental psychology. Nevertheless, we shall emphasize the monographic meetings which have demonstrated a desire to work from the Enviromental Psychology point of view.

Chronologically, in the years 1979, 1980, 1982 y 1984 a series of four sets of conferences took place regarding School Environment (ICE, Institute of Educational Science, University of Barcelona) and the BCD Foundation (Barcelona Design Center), which resulted in different levels of the administrative authorities and personnel in the educational system becoming more aware. The 7th International Conference on People and their Physical Surroundings (IAPS), held in Barcelona in 1982 (Pol and Morales, 1984), was significant. It had certain repercussions in the mass media and furthermore caused a response which permitted the development of the academic program in Barcelona.

The First Conference on Environmental Psychology was held in Madrid in 1986 (Aragones and Corraliza, 1988) and led to a notable degree of consolidation and recognition. This was followed by the a second conference in Mallorca 1989 (Pich and Pol, 1989), a third conference in Sevill in 1991 (De Castro, 1991)and the fourth will be held in Canarias in 1994. It would also be possible to mention a long list of small, local meetings in Seville (1988), Oviedo (1989), Lanzarote (1989), Tarragona (1990), Girona (1991), Orellana (1992) among others, as well as a very long list of different sets of conventions regarding Environmental Education, which would take us too far away from that which is strictly psychological in nature.

Several public and private institutions, some of them already mentioned, have made the first steps in Environmental Psychology possible in Spain. Even though they are not specifically involved in this field, their cooperation represents a social recognition of the discipline which on occasion has been accompanied by the contribution of funds for research. That is not the only support which has been received, but it has been the most constant.

The creation of Environmental Psychology section in the Catalan Society of Social Psychology and an Environmental Psychology Task Force in the Madrid Branch Office of the "Colegio Oficial de Psicologos" deserve separate mention. Both were estabished in 1989. Within an interdisciplinary framework, in 1991 was created in Barcelona the Association of Experts and Consultants in Environmental issues.


The academic development has passed through some pioneer courses in doctoral programs, (School of Architecture of Barcelona, 1977; Faculty of Psychology in the Complutense University of Madrid, 1978 ; Faculty of Psychology in the University of Barcelona). During the 80's there was a growth in the number of seminars and complementary activities in several universities, as well as in a generalized way, isolated topics within the area of Social Psychology. In 1986/87 an optional but regular course on Environmental Psychology was included in the curriculum of the Faculty of Psychology at the Complutense University of Madrid and at the Autonomous University of Madrid. A year later it began in the University of Barcelona. In 1988 the Master in Environmental Intervention: Psychological, Social and Management Contexts began in the University of Barcelona, as an inter-disciplinary program (Department of Social Psychology from the University of Barcelona, School of Architecture, Departament of Psychology of Health from Autonomous University of Barcelona and other entities of the local and autonomic administration are involved).

At present several other universities are preparing their programs at the post-graduate level. Nevertheless, so far this has been accompanied by the appearance of any specialized journals nor series of textbooks or specific monographs. This is certainly one of the greatests gaps that must be filled.

The international relationships of the active core groups in Environmental Psychology in Spain are frequently present at most meetings and congresses. The reduced but constantly active presence of the IAPS (see Pol, 1988) in the conferences, is apparent as well as the continuous contact with the main European core groups (Surrey, London, Strasbourg, París, Lund, Louvain-la-Neuve, etc.), and the frequent presence of their most representative authors. Canter, Korosec, Lee, Garling, Teymur, Jodelet, Levy-Leboyer, Hart, Simon, Moles, Simes, Kaminski, etc., have appeared as guest speakers or have given seminars in various programs and meetings. There are several projects of cooperation and exchange in process through the Erasmus Projects of the European Community which will strengthen these bonds. These bonds have not been made use of within central and northern Europe.

The cooperation with diverse centers of Lisbon and Mexico, especially with the program "Master of Environmental Psychology" of the Autonomous University of Mexico have generated joint research projects, exchange and publications.

In summary, Environmental Psychology in Spain therefore presents a good deal of academic consolidation, accompanied by developments in basic research and with the vocation of acceptable application. Now Environmental Psychology is fighting for a professional profile that may be viewed as socially useful and, as a consequence, bring about stable jobs for practitioners in this field of specialty (see Pol 1992). There is a problem and a demand which require the professional contributions of the environmental psychologists, but their social usefulness must be demonstrated. In other words, the offer of Environmental Psychology and the social demand must be fine-tuned and adjusted.


                           JOSÉ RAMÓN CORREAS GONZALEZ
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