This year I have been fortunate to interview some extraordinary neuroscientists about the exciting new field of neuroarchitecture – a fascinating topic I’ve written about for Houzz in Australia and for Roca Galleries throughout Spain and Europe. So it’s understandable that I am often asked about neuroarchitecture. Why is it so important? How is it changing the worlds we live in? And what on earth is neuroarchitecture?
What is neuroarchitecture?
Neuroscientists and psychologists can now measure how we respond physiologically to built environments, using electroencephalography to record brain data and with body-worn sensors that monitor our heart rate, respiratory rate, sweat glands and body temperature. The results reveal what’s happening in our bodies and minds when we react to architecture. Are the stress hormones, cortisol and adrenaline, pumping through your system in response to a perceived threat? Or are your heart and respiratory rates calming in response to a secure environment? As well as illuminating how we react, neuroarchitecture is also revealing why.
Why is neuroarchitecture so important?
If a room, home, office or any other built environment has ever made you feel uncomfortable, or if a space has helped you feel calm, safe and relaxed, then you already instinctively understand why neuroarchitecture is vital to our wellbeing. Many studies estimate that Australians spend up to 90 per cent of our time indoors. So if our built environments are stressful places to embody, improving them can have huge impacts on our health and help us function optimally. The potential benefits of neuroarchitecture are far-reaching. Imagine if the buildings we live our lives in – from homes and workplaces to schools and hospitals – could enrich our health and wellbeing the way the natural environment does.
What architectural features do we like and dislike?
In terms of people’s preferences, they are as varied and individual as built environments themselves. In general physiological terms, however, neuroscientists have discovered that we respond positively to curves over sharp angles; that we feel more relaxed in open-plan layouts than enclosed spaces; that we gravitate to spaces with high ceilings over low ones; and that we prefer façades and architecture that is varied or ‘textured’ rather than plain or monotonous.
As a new discipline, neuroarchitecture is still in its infancy and has a long way to go before it reaches maturity. But for a fledgling field to have revealed so much already, neuroarchitecture is undeniably a topic for us all to watch with bated breath.