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The “Extended Mind” Evolves With Architectural Design

By Maria Lorena Lehman — Get more articles like this sent to your email HERE.

Image Credit: © Raja Rc | Dreamstime

Human awareness is not as perfect as you might think. We humans are easily distracted and our attention can be fleeting. So, this notion of an “extended mind” seems to make sense. The idea as described in the Discover article entitled The Brain: How Google Is Making Us Smarter explains that the human mind is really a system made up by the human brain extending into “parts of the environment”. Ultimately, the mind comes to depend on its environment for cues and information.(1)

With the computer revolution, humans are relying more and more on machines to make up a piece of their “extended mind”. As such tools permeate human environments; I can’t help but think of how the notion of an “extended mind” may influence architecture. 

Architectural design, due to its incorporation of aesthetic and function, can almost immediately be considered as part of this “extended mind”. Buildings surround their occupants and provide for many of their needs. Such needs include sensorial stimulation, community relationship building and functional processes. Architecture may also be said to help the human mind by helping it to adapt as, it too, evolves.

First, we cannot deny that computers and other tools are continuously finding their way into architectural environments. Buildings are becoming smarter and more interactive. As architects learn new ways to cater to their building’s occupants, architectural features will become more meaningful as they strive to help occupants live better lives.

With ongoing innovations, architecture will be able to tailor its interactions to occupant styles, tastes and needs in real-time. Architecture itself may become “hub-like” in that it provides a new kind of place for idea-sharing and experience enhancement. As interactive design installations gain popularity, occupants will be able to experience themselves and others in new ways. Information will take on different interactive qualities and architecture will relate more personally to its occupants.

The notion of an “extended mind” will continue to evolve as interactive architecture becomes increasingly main-stream. In addition, these advanced environments may help our minds to evolve as well. Consequently, more interaction with our environments may mean that greater resources will be readily available to us in real-time. Just as Google has placed an abundance of information at our fingertips (literally)(1), interactive architecture will have the power to improve our experiences via augmented realities. Thus, our “extended minds” may connect to architectural design in whole new ways.


(1) Zimmer, Carl. The Brain: How Google Is Making Us Smarter. Discover. January 15, 2009.





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Maria: I came across your website through a reference in today's Architect Weekly ezine and am delighted I did. I'll bookmark your site and check back often. I read the first article and then the second and thirty minutes later realized how much time had passed. I've been practicing for thirty years and have always missed the stimulation of academia. I find each of your brief dissertations sort of like a day in design studio. Thanks for the inspiration.

Ron Ward
AI Group Design
I am excited to see you touch a vein of values in architecture, I have been chasing myself for years. Your depth of involvement in these very deep subjects is really beautiful and passionately dealt with and well written. Sound, color and value, shape, texture, scale, smell.... all definitive measures of the spaces we should be alert to. [...] I will savor the rest of your investigation of sensuality in architecture. I'm Glad I found you.

Dennis McLaughlin
McLaughlin Architect
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Maria Lorena Lehman is a multi award-winning visionary author, designer, and educator from the United States. Maria holds a Bachelor of Architecture with Honors from Virginia Tech and a Master in Design with Distinction from Harvard University Graduate School of Design. CLICK HERE to learn more.

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