Neuro-architecture designates the application of neuroscience in built spaces to grasp the impact of architecture on human behavior and the brain. By incorporating elements of applied neuroscience, the emerging field obtains an interdisciplinary character and sets up rich interfaces with other fields of knowledge. On that account, neuro-architecture expands research about the relation between built environments and their users, hence improving the understanding of numerous messages transmitted by the environment, including those on less conscious levels of perception. Neuro-architecture can be considered a field that fuses environmental psychology, architecture, and neuroscience to address the human brain dynamics associated with action in and interaction with the built environment (Karakas and Yildiz, 2020).
“As neuroscientists, we believe that the brain is the organ that controls behavior and that genes control the blueprint, but the environment can modulate the function of the genes, and ultimately the structure of our brain. Architectural design changes our brain and our behavior.” Fred ‘Rusty’ Cage, neuroscientist, Salk Institute. AIA Convention 2003.
“Man the Maker”, Homo Faber, crafts his environment, thereby dominating his fate. As a result of human ingenuity, we now spend more than 90% of our time in a built environment crafted to befit our needs (Janda & Janda, 2017). This bears significance and brings into question how we experience space, and how these experiences affect our behavior. Neuroscience seeks to root out the principles of biological mechanisms involved in consciousness, environmental stressors, and spatial navigation to gain a substantial comprehension of these impacts. In essence, a deeper understanding of neuroscience, particularly in the areas of orientation and spatial perception, can be tremendously beneficial in the development of spaces with positive environmental characteristics that will reduce the negative physiological, emotional, and cognitive repercussions to the bare minimum. Hence the emergence of neuro-architecture.
Four principles of Neuro-architecture
When it comes to sensation and perception as a principle of neuro-architecture, the focus is on sight and smell. For instance, unnatural lighting can affect the body’s biological clock profoundly by throwing off one’s circadian rhythm and impacting the sleep cycle. Many studies expose how it can have an unfavorable impact on our mood. It is recommended to install dimmers in frequently used rooms to help the body adapt to the cycle of day to night. Another tip is to include different sources of lighting such as sconces, overhead, and floor lamps to layer lighting as needed. The light intensity, humidity levels, temperature, colors, textures, and sounds… Each architectural element impacts our physical and mental state. It is precisely what neuro-architecture seeks: to understand the built environment’s influence on the human mind.
The second principle is learning and memory which concentrates on shapes and movement. A great example of this is integrating soft geometry through furniture to help flow in homes. In this regard, one study observed that rounded decor stimulated more brain activity in comparison to a room with boxy furniture. Decision-making is the third principle of neuro-architecture. Verily, the human brain is incessantly making micro-decisions. Accordingly, one should determine what objects bring joy and what objects should be removed. The following step is to provide concealed storage for those disturbing items that are sitting on the counter. Seeing as how neuro-architecture is about creating a design that suits each lifestyle; it makes it easier for the mind to form micro decisions by having things where they are needed such as keeping umbrellas at the front entry. In other words, placing everything in a logical location diminishes the overburden of decision-making.
The fourth principle of neuro-architecture is concerning new experiences. The pathways of Dopamine – a chemical that motivates us to explore- are activated when the brain is exposed to new environments. By way of illustration, a change in the layout and look of a home can stimulate this part of the brain. Furthermore, simply rotating your artwork can make your space feel refreshed. It is truly amazing how much a piece of art or gallery wall can change a room and the experience that comes with it.
Evidence-based design (EBD) requires the use of clinical research in the design process of the built environment to enhance health, economic outcomes, and productivity. It is an approach that utilizes mounting research from neuroscience, architecture, environmental psychology, and behavioral economics to generate a framework of desired outcomes. The evidence-based design allows architects to evaluate a design along with its variations, to explore whether or not they contribute to human wellbeing. The result is choices that guide a design towards a more adaptive final form.
Inspired by neuroscience concepts applied by the philosopher Jeremy Bentham during the late 18th century, the Panopticon is an architectural concept used for institutional buildings, customarily associated with prisons. Its name is derived from Greek mythology’s figure Panoptes, who was a giant with a hundred eyes. The form of the panopticon was contingent on the idea that all the inhabitants could be monitored by one central figure at all times. This could be considered an example of proto-neuro-architecture. The circular structure makes it possible for the whole complex to be guarded from a single position, giving prisoners the feeling that they are persistently being watched.
These days, studies in neuro-architecture and technological progress can disclose the reactions of human bodies and minds to the built environment. Taking note of this knowledge, architecture should be undertaken with the conscientiousness of the effects that design can have on the physiological and the psychological level. In this sense, architects and designers will be capable of creating spaces that take into consideration the end-users biological disposition to improve the experience of working in a motivational and healthy environment. As Le Corbusier used to posit, architecture should not only serve us but also move us.
- CBC News (Last Updated: October 19 2018) “Neuro-architecture: How to design a space that will help you stay sharp and stimulated.” Available at: https://www.cbc.ca/life/thegoods/neuro-architecture-how-to-design-a-space-that-will-help-you-stay-sharp-and-stimulated-1.4624036 (Accessed: July 30, 2022).
- De Paiva, A. (2018) “12 Principles of NeuroArchitecture and NeuroUrbanism,” NeuroAU, 4 March. Available at: https://www.neuroau.com/post/principles-of-neuroarchitecture (Accessed: July 30, 2022).
- Examples of neuroarchitecture: designs with a mind (2019) Connections By Finsa. Available at: https://www.connectionsbyfinsa.com/examples-neuroarchitecture-designs/?lang=en/ (Accessed: July 29, 2022).
- Higuera-Trujillo, J. L., Llinares, C. and Macagno, E. (2021) “The cognitive-emotional design and study of architectural space: A scoping review of neuroarchitecture and its precursor approaches,” Sensors (Basel, Switzerland), 21(6), p. 2193. doi: 10.3390/s21062193.
- McIntosh, A. R. and Jadavji, N. M. (2017) “Application of neuroscience principles for evidence-based design in architectural education,” Journal of Young Investigators, 33(4). Available at: https://www.jyi.org/2017-september/2017/9/2/application-of-neuroscience-principles-for-evidence-based-design-in-architectural-education (Accessed: July 31, 2022).
- Wang, S. et al. (2022) “The embodiment of architectural experience: A methodological perspective on neuro-architecture,” Frontiers in human neuroscience, 16, p. 833528. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2022.833528.
- Zuelli, F. (2019) Neuro-architecture: how to design a stimulating space, Sunbell. Available at: https://www.sunbell.it/en/blog-en/neuro-architecture/ (Accessed: July 31, 2022).
- (No date) Researchgate.net. Available at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/335313246_NEURO-ARCHITECTURE_AND_PLACEMAKING_THE_RELATIONSHIP_BETWEEN_THE_BUILT_ENVIRONMENT_AND_BRAIN (Accessed: July 31, 2022).