Applying neuroscience to architecture

Architectural practice and neuroscience research use our brains and minds in much the same way. However, the link between neuroscience knowledge and architectural design with rare exceptions has yet to be made.
The design of places and spaces that provide a context for human experiences-architecture-has a long and often distinguished history. The conscious, frontal lobe processes of shaping this context are only partially understood by architects and have yet to surface on the roiling waters of neuroscience studies. Even less well understood is the role of architecture in shaping human experiences. Social and behavioral scientists have explored this terrain over the past 50 years, but the results of their work are shallow knowledge. They enable us to observe the fact that children in classrooms lit with natural daylight achieve higher test scores, but not why this happens.

A Roman architect, Marcus Vitruvius Pollio, in his book states that a structure must exhibit the three qualities of firmitas, utilitas, venusta that is, it must be strong or durable, useful, and beautiful.

It seems strange that this three-part requirement is still so little understood.

Most neuroscientists think of architecture as a profession concerned with aesthetic beauty designs that please the observer through visual perception of the harmony, symmetry, and good proportions crafted by the designer. But, architecture is more than aesthetics. Well-designed buildings need to respond to the functional needs of the occupants, and users need to be provided with adequate lighting, well-modulated heating and cooling systems, structural soundness, and public safety provisions (i.e., entrances and exists, stairways, etc.). All of these attributes are now evaluated in physical science terms.

If we expand the horizon for neuroscience, it would eventually result in a new knowledge base for architecture. We would then know how the design of classrooms can support the cognitive activities of students, how the design of hospital rooms can enhance the recovery of patients, and how the design of offices and laboratories can facilitate interdisciplinary activities of neuroscientists, and so forth.

                  RASIKA PATIL 

Rasika

General Secretary

IRIANS- The Neuroscience Institute

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