Use neuroscience to not only improve life as we currently know it, but to also question and innovate the way we live. I have a hunch that it will unlock new and exciting ways for people to perceive and interact with the world around them --- all because the environment does not take function for granted.
As you design, it may help to expand your mindset to more deeply understand the many ways a design feature can be interpreted by occupants. And while it may be impossible to predict how every single occupant will interpret your architectural design features — there are some common and innovative ways you can predict how occupants will not only perceive your design elements, but also behaviorally respond.
Yes, architecture is visual, but it is also a wonderful way to experience renewed haptic, audio, olfactory and even taste senses. In this article, we will take a closer look at just how architecture can make the most of these other senses — even tapping into some additional senses that occupants just need to have “turned on”.
As you design, pay attention to what will become featured elements within your occupants’ central vision, while also paying attention to those supporting elements that will reside in their peripheral vision. Make sure that the two types of architectural elements support one another, to help your occupant enjoy or use your architectural space so they can accomplish what they set out to.
Today’s article targets getting you to think about environment and memory, particularly for the aging population. As you design buildings within which the aging live, do you take time within your design process to think about solutions that will help them with their “aging” brains — thus, assisting them with certain aspects of their lifestyle, like suddden confusion, a missplacing of the keys, or other distracted behaviors?
When you design a building or residence, how might you think about its design in different terms (from a sensory design standpoint) as you take note of whether it is being used by a city or country dweller? Would such findings indicate that you as an architect need to consider designing for stress (and what yields happiness) with a bit more focus in urban environments?
When you design, do you ever consider what within your work might become such an architectural symbol? Even if it is not an overt grand gesture like the Taj Mahal, perhaps even a significant detail within your architectural built work might serve as a symbol for someone that experiences your building. And in the end, that does give it a form of meaning.
To make your architectural space the best it can be, consider how your occupants sense it through their different modalities — but do not just consider them separately from one another. Think about how each affects the other, where in this case touch affects hearing and hearing affects touch. Then you can consider what happens when your occupant sees and hears at the same time.
Architects often look at where their occupants travel within their building, what makes them decide to go wherever they are going, and what behaviors they engage in once they arrive. But what actually happens to building occupants as they move through your building? Does the speed at which they move through your building have impact on their experiences while they are there? And upon how those experiences are remembered?
Think about this for such buildings as hospitals or schools, where so many decisions and choices are made everyday by people that work there, heal there or learn their. Then think for a minute about where within your designs you give occupants a design choice — like between taking an elevator, escalator or stairs. Might it be healthier for certain occupants to choose one over the other? And when?
Researchers are now able to gather data relating to how “mature” a brain is within a person. So no longer might you only need to think of your occupants as being a male or female that is 25 or 60. Instead, as you integrate better personalization within your adaptive sensory building designs, you can begin to design for specific brain strengths and weaknesses that your given occupant may have.
Within a hotel, we see a lot more option in terms of comfort than might typically exist within a hospital design. Within a hotel room an occupant might experience nice lighting to help them read a good book before bed, a well-placed television in case they need a distraction before sleeping, darkening curtains and filtering room shades to help prevent street light (or early morning light) from streaming into the room and waking the occupant up.
It is important for you to realize that such positive outcomes can result from the materials and other sensorial stimuli you put into your buildings — especially in the details. Thus, certain material properties, lighting displays and even geometric architectural arrangements are likely to serve as acute triggers for powerful emotions in occupants.
There are many times we cannot help but default to our sense of touch as we form impressions about the situations which surround us.
As architects, we like to think that we shape architecture — but as most of us know it also shapes us. The relationship between adaptation and environment often works both ways.
Just think about that for a moment, everything has a smell. Don’t you think that architects today should uncover what this widely underestimated sensorial stimuli can hold for their designs? But now that we know that the olfactory sense is significant, what should we begin to do as designers to make our creations even better?
The notion of having dispositions, or records, that your brain keeps as it experiences architecture is quite an interesting thought. If every time your occupant has an architecture experience that can later be rewritten, then your role as an architect is to design for more than a real-time experience.
Eventually, new findings in neuroscience will meet head on with other rising fields like nanotechnology and biomimicry, and this meeting will certainly yield some new techniques for you, as an architect, to greatly expand upon (and in some cases completely revamp) what goes into your building design stages.
This interesting experiment might just give you, as an architect, some understanding of how you and your occupants perceive “distance” — and why this aspect of spatial reasoning might vary from person to person; thus, influencing how people perceive your built work.
Yes, negotiating that balance between a “population” and an “individual” can be a delicate thing to do. For instance, just like in the above theater example, school classroom design must also tailor to the needs of an individual student, as well as to the collective needs of the class.
Timing is everything. Both in the brain and throughout your architectural features, timing plays a critical role between the stimuli that your building puts out and the stimuli that your occupant’s brain receives.
Perhaps you can be more proactive as you design. Instead of letting the scent within your space just sort of happen as a by-product of all your other design decisions, you can instead think about what effect you want to have with your space.
When inside your building, how do occupants actually make choices? They are continuously making decisions, and the orchestration of your design elements has a lot to do with the decisions they make.
Human movement is important for you, as an architect, to understand — not just because of how a person’s body might relate to a design, but also because of how that body influences the rest of that person’s perception. This includes physiological, intellectual and emotional elements.
The human senses basically collect data from stimuli (like light and sound) and feed it into our brain for assembly and interpretation. But did you know that it is possible to “feel” more so we can develop a heightened awareness to certain things?
Down to the neuro level, building design affects occupants. Research in the neuroscience field is uncovering not just how building design works, but also why, when and where it works. This helps architects to better understand how certain features, like light for instance, might impact occupant physiology, thought, behavior — and mood.
Did you know that the second most complex organ in your body after your brain is your eye? (1) The human eye contains many processes all working together to help you perceive visual queues in a continuous way. However, when foreign matter or heightened stimuli (like loud sounds or bright lights) occur, a blinking reflex is activated — and usually when one eye blinks the other follows.
With understanding into how the human visual system works, designers can create a great variety of different room feels. You will be able to truly achieve great effects (for both interior and exterior spaces) by combining your knowledge of perception with your knowledge of design.
The beautiful thing about architecture is that it can “tap into” an occupant’s past meaningful experiences through their senses and their emotion. Architecture also has the power set the stage for occupants to create new meaningful experiences — and memory plays a key role in helping to make all of this possible.
There are so many details that come together to make a wonderful architectural design; but what gets the most visual attention when someone sees a work of architecture? How does visual attention play into an occupant’s experience? The key is to understand that attention is a gradual process of adaptation where what gets our attention in the first moment may not get our attention moments later.
The architecture which surrounds you influences your thought, and subsequently your behavior. Understanding this relationship between the environment and your mind is important – particularly if you are a designer of such environments. Your brain is not only hard-wired to interpret certain spatial characteristics in certain ways, but your mind also plays a role in how you make decisions based on those interpretations.
As architects engage in their design process, will the discoveries of neuroaesthetics impact their project outcomes? In other words, will knowing what triggers more neurons to fire rapidly impact design decisions at the drawing board? Yes, beauty is dependent to some extent on culture and experience; but can beauty be universally understood at some level?
Now, with the digital revolution, architectural space can be manipulated evermore by using surface. Architects are going beyond merely painting or applying a surface coating or facing. Architectural surface can literally become space that our eyes move through.
What if we could tell what is happening inside a building simply by looking at its exterior facade? With such techniques architects could embed new ways of seeing information into the architecture itself.
Vertical illusions in architecture are important features. Occupants experience space and transitions through them. Considerate attention should be given to how people might perceive verticals by not only focusing on the vertical itself, but by also designing the spatial functions from which they stem.
If air circulation impacts food aroma or lighting impacts how appetizing the food looks, wouldn’t you conclude that architectural design plays a part in “marketing” the chef’s entrée to your body?
Optical illusion can play a subtle role in everyday living – even affecting how architecture is constructed. Did you know that the Parthenon was designed to correct an illusion? Its outer columns are thicker at the top and angled inward at a slant so that from certain viewpoints the building appears to stand tall and straight.
It is my hope that you take time to improve your design process. For this is the root of your architectural projects’ level of success. Thus, I invite you to begin with the the following three steps that will help you to tackle the core of what makes your design process work. After all, this is how your projects can evolve over time to reach those next highest levels.
Architectural flow is a higher-level poetic goal to reach as you design environments. After all, there is a significant difference between a building that houses a variety of independent functions that co-exist near one another versus a building that fosters functions that harmonize with each other as each leverages the other. This is an important characteristic of architectural flow – where an occupant narrative emerges from a well-designed environmental narrative.
Designing occupant-centered architecture calls for designers to think about environments as providing more than mere comfort. For architectural design, this means striving to reach beyond functionality within your solution. Together with function, aesthetics and meaning must be fused. But how do these all work together to yield new kinds of poetics that innovate occupant experience to uplift quality of life for the better?