When Winston Churchill was advocating that Britain’s House of Commons, destroyed in the war, be rebuilt in its old configuration, he cited the way the building’s design had influenced the debates that went on there, famously saying “We shape our buildings, thereafter they shape us.”
The House of Commons fosters loud and lively debate. The lovely Marine Mammal Center at the New England Aquarium does the opposite.
Architect John McManus explained to me why the “rockwork” islands are all roughly the same size: Making one higher than the others would establish a dominant perch. Sooner or later, one of the male seals would make himself at home there, which would oblige the other male to challenge him for it. The Aquarium was not interested in having its seals fight. So instead of a picturesque grouping of larger and smaller rocks, they built an archipelago of like-sized islands, shaping an environment that is more conducive to peace.