Architecture is a bond between humans and the built world. There are many vital aspects within urban design, architecture and interior design that have a clear cognitive response on the human brain. Studies have shown that people may not notice the difference themselves; however, new technology is beginning to interpret how the human brain responds to its surroundings. Whilst facing the rebuilding of London in 1943 after the savage bombings of World War II, Winston Churchill said, ‘We shape our buildings, and afterwards our buildings shape us’, which has now been proven correct 70 years later. Many studies are still underway to advance the knowledge between architecture with neuroscience and psychology so that designers can maximise the benefits of built environments. The architectural design process is immensely complex, and each person has individual needs which vary as they age, creating problematic research findings that may seem cluttered.

Space and geometries

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the curves of National Museum of Qatar gift shop by Koichi Takada_©Tom Ferguson

Environmental psychology is a field that examines how human behaviour and emotions are affected by specific spatial environments. Neuroscientists have also studied how the geometry and arrangements of spaces impact the brain and found that cells in the hippocampal region of the brain react to certain arrangements; this part of the brain is what helps humans concentrate. Bright, spacious rooms are known to relax people as the abundant space evokes calm behaviour, while cramped rooms provoke claustrophobic panic and induce stressful environments. Humans label specific geometries involved in architecture as ‘satisfying’ because they subconsciously relax them. Curved and organic shapes featuring the interior and exterior of a building subtly reference natural elements, as nature is crucial to obtaining good mental health. In 2024, the National Library of Medicine published findings comparing a rectangular room with a curved one among 35 participants. The results showed that the participants experienced higher positive effects in the curved room. They demonstrated that the rectangular room elicits an increased negative mood, urging architects to consider these results when designing a layout.

Incorporating natural elements 

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_Interior gardens at Binh House by VTN architects_©Quang Dam

Nature is at the forefront of human mental health; it is imperative that people maintain a strong relationship with nature to stay healthy. Although physically connecting in natural landscapes is crucial, nature can also be incorporated into homes and urban cityscapes. Architects have begun seamlessly blending gardens and vegetation into dwellings to   

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Vegetation enveloping MLC House by Bernardes Arquitetura_©Fran Parente

improve people’s day-to-day lives. Since COVID-19, many adults have transitioned to working from home, leading the average person to now spend 18 hours and 43 minutes daily at home, as recorded by IPA TouchPoints in 2023. With this time frame in mind, designers must focus on creating a healthy home environment that supports the person’s emotions and behaviour. Interior courtyards have become increasingly popular as they support the connection between body and soul, creating a calm and happy atmosphere. Another way to introduce vegetation to a home is by using external exterior lattices in conjunction with inner exterior glazed walls, leaving a void where vegetation can thrive and encase the home with lush greenery. Vegetation does not just simply react with emotions; it also improves the air quality and microclimate of the plot.

Perhaps the most obvious but undoubtedly the most potent natural element is light. Maximising daylight indoors exceedingly improves behaviour and productivity. Dark spaces are not productive for humans as they associate it with night-time and sleeping. Dark or dull spaces negatively impact human mood; for example, countries with the highest depression records typically receive minimal daylight. Sunlight significantly affects people’s moods more than any other environmental factor. Sunlight increases the brain’s serotonin release, boosting moods, energy, and focus. Architects can incorporate more glazed features to allow maximum daylight into the interior spaces, with large floor-to-ceiling windows and skylights. Abundant glazing can seamlessly blend interior and exterior spaces, maximising daylight and connections to vegetation. Glazed walls and large windows have many benefits alongside daylight; they often offer guests unique views of the surrounding landscape, a design feature that pleases everyone.

Interactions with colour

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Coloured plaster by Studio Ben Allen_©French + Tye

There are countless studies on how colours react with specific parts of the brain; however, all research has found that the implications start in daily life. People have attached meanings to colour. For instance, at a traffic light, green means go and red means stop; this already tells the human brain that green is positive and red is negative. Movies, marketing, and games have since told people that green is for winning and red is for danger and loss. Another factor affecting how people view colour is the weather. People identify red, orange and yellow tones as ‘warm tones’, associating them with warm sunny weather, which typically evokes a happier and more exciting atmosphere, slightly contradicting how people naturally view red. Because of this, blue tones are considered ‘cold tones’, associating them with cold rainy weather, which typically can relax people while negatively impacting their mood.

The colours used for interior design and architecture can be specifically chosen to align the building’s function and clientele. Scientists found that the colour green helps to induce creativity in both word-based and picture-based activities, making green the ideal colour for creative work settings at home or in an office. White and pink colours support relationships as they help people tune into those happy feelings, whilst red increases libido, making someone more physically desirable. Perhaps pink and red interiors would be best suited for a hotel targeting young couples on their honeymoon. Research indicates that bright blue light may help reset a person’s daily rhythm, supporting their internal clock when life gets too chaotic. These findings make bright blue a desirable colour for busy CEOs or stockbrokers who need to work across multiple time zones worldwide.

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blue tones in house 1804 by and and and studios_©Yoshihiro Makino

Numerous studies have found how people’s environments can affect their emotions from the layout strategy all the way to the colours of furniture. It is crucial that architects and designers attempt to work alongside neuroscientists and psychologists to design the healthiest and most productive spaces. No two people are the same, and no two people will react in the same way; however, scientists have discovered general rules that can benefit all people. Whether it be a home, a school or a shopping mall, architecture can encourage healthy behaviour and protect people’s mental well-being, designing a healthier life. 


Baumann, O and Strachan-Regan, K (2024). The impact of room shape on affective states, heart rate, and creative output. [online]. Available at:,%5D%2C%20%5B8%5D%5D

Bond, M (2017). The hidden ways that architecture affects how you feel. [online]. Available at: 

Cheung, V (2021). Colour: its influence and impact on the way we live. [online]. Available at:,with%20aggression%2C%20blue%20with%20calmness

Roland, J (2017). What are the benefits of sunlight? [online]. Available at: 

Sachdev, P (2023). How colours can affect you. [online]. Available at:,and%20danger%20%2D%2D%20more%20intense


Image 1. Tom Ferguson (2019). The curves of the National Museum of Qatar gift shop by Koichi Takada. [online]. Available at: 

Image 2. Quang Dam (2020). Interior gardens at Binh House by VTN architects 

Image 3. Fran Parente (2020). Vegetation enveloping MLC House by Bernardes Arquitetura. [online]. Available at: 

Image 4. French + Tye (2021). Coloured plaster by Studio Ben Allen. [online]. Available at: 

Image 5. Yoshihiro Makino. blue tones in house 1804 by and and and studios. [online]. Available at: