Architects have long tried to divine how the spaces they design will be experienced by their users. Now, thanks in part to the work of the 10-year-old Academy of Neuroscience for Architecture, an emerging field of study is seeking to find scientific proof of the effects of the built environment on the human brain and nervous system.
Architects and scientists are just beginning to imagine the possibilities of such research, writes Badger. "If architects understood both fields, they might be able, in designing hospitals, schools, and homes for people with all manner of disabilities, to create places that would support the development of premature babies, the treatment of children with autism, the fostering of learning abilities of students."
"We are now really beginning to understand better how to measure the responses to the built environment," says Eduardo Macagno, professor of biological sciences at the University of California, San Diego, "without relying on psychology, social science, observational behavior."
"Those studies, he explains, 'don't have the quantitative and objective experimental approach that we believe neuroscience brings to the interface with architecture.'"
"Enriched environments might enhance the performance of the human brain, and the growth of new brain cells," says Badger. "Using color, lighting, and layout, though, architects may be able to design places to provide the sensory experiences that neuroscience demonstrates produce the best brain response."