Here is an interesting piece that explores the efforts of a scientific team to measure the impact of architecture on the brain and our emotions. No big surprises for those of us who believe that place matters.
I spoke with Dr. Julio Bermudez, the lead of a new study that uses fMRI to capture the effects of architecture on the brain. His team operates with the goal of using the scientific method to transform something opaque—the qualitative “phenomenologies of our built environment”—into neuroscientific observations that architects and city planners can deliberately design for. Bermudez and his team’s research question focuses on buildings and sites designed to elicit contemplation: They theorize that the presence of “contemplative architecture” in one’s environment may over time produce the same health benefits as traditional “internally-induced” meditation, except with much less effort by the individual.
Contemplative architecture contains a series of design elements that have historically been employed in religious settings: Bermudez noted that it is “logical to expect societies not only to notice [the link between built beauty and experience] over time, but to exploit it as much as possible in their places for holy purposes.” These elements may be used in any place intended for contemplation or discovery, whether of a spiritual, personal, or even scientific nature...
...The provisional conclusions of the study are that the brain behaves differently when exposed to contemplative and non-contemplative buildings, contemplative states elicited through “architectural aesthetics” are similar to the contemplation of traditional meditation in some ways, and different in other ways, and, finally, that “architectural design matters.”
That last conclusion sounds anticlimactic after all this talk of lobes and cortices, but it reinforces a growing trend in architecture and design as researchers are beginning to study how the built environment affects the people who live in it. ANFA proclaims that “some observers have characterized what is happening in neuroscience as the most exciting frontier of human discovery since the Renaissance.”
Read the entire piece here.