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Neuroarchitecture: Designs with Intelligence

Can you explain your feelings rationally?

To talk about architecture one must talk about spaces, one of the richest sensory dimensions. To further illustrate, let’s use Cathedrals as examples. The Cathedrals are built for the purpose of boosting our relationship with the “divine”, as per Christian theology. They found, in vertical architecture (like huge arcades), a way to make devotees see and contemplate the image of God and grant the sensation that He is above us.

However, everyone has their own culture and religion, so it’s possible that not everyone will have the same experience and emotions inside cathedrals as Christian devotees. To explain this concept, Kurt Lewin, a psychologist from 1940s, published a study in which he concluded that behavior and sensations occur from experiences, as well as the social and physical environment we inhabit. In that way, we can understand why our feelings in some spaces can be different to the feelings of others, since our past experiences can influence our sensory processes.

However, we know that everyone inside the Notre Dame Cathedral will feel the sensation of being small compared to the huge sculptures and structures. This happens because the view and sound are the same for everyone, so within everyone’s brain, similar processes will awaken, including personal past experiences, culture and religion. Neuroarchitecure are the studies of how our brain interact with physical spaces and it explains how this happens and how we use that knowledge for architectural benefits.

To learn more about how we can implement Neuroarchitectural studies, let’s take hospitals as an example to showcase these ideas more effectively.

We already know that the first image is a picture of a hospital room because the grey and white colors, and the textures, are more common in hospitals as compared to houses or hotels. We can also imagine the temperature and subconsciously understand the fact that it’s a sorrowful place where unhealthy people stay to recover. We can also feel the pessimistic and depressive atmosphere.

On the other hand, the next image can make one wonder if it really is a hospital room since it oozes the idea of comfort and warmth, accomplishing this thanks to the presence of far more textures and colors. Both rooms are nearly the same but just a few changes can make a world of difference.

Some studies show that changing colors and textures inside hospital rooms or psychiatric clinics can offer the sensation of optimism, homeliness and hope. Norman Foster, for example, is adding these changes to contribute to better outcomes for patients and to re-cast hospitals as a humane and civilized place for all those who use it.

Interaction with physical spaces awaken processes in our brain linked to fear, survival instinct, happiness and more. With Neuroarchitecture, we can implement neural studies and put across the right feelings we wish to present in our architectural projects. It’s not possible to predict the exact experiences someone will have inside our buildings, but with Neuroarchitecture we can make educated guesses that lead to success more often than not.


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