The Emergence of Neuroarchitecture

Our spaces do more to define us and express our authentic essence than we may believe.

Photo by Getty Images/AleksandarNakic.

Winston Churchill famously said, “We shape our buildings, and then our buildings shape us.” Science and psychology are now coming around to support the statement. The merging of science, psych, art, and design is a hot, new-ish world known as neuroarchitecture.

Neuroarchitecture goes a step beyond creating buildings based solely upon looks. It builds upon the belief that we all love to have some control over our environments. Neuroarchitecture takes into consideration the brain’s processes in relation to the architectural environment.

We are a superficial species. The same truths that apply to food porn and style influencers also make sense here. We are more positively impacted when a building we go to looks aesthetically pleasing. If the space is simple and boring, we’re more apt to steer clear and even feel bummed out about being there. Sometimes the way a building looks even alters the way we interact with others.

Case in point: Cutting-edge architectural firm Snøhetta, based in Oslo and New York City, envisions fascinating design experiments all around the world. What it did for universally loathed Times Square was particularly ambitious and effective. This particular project involved putting chic, sleek gray benches around the hood. The intent wasn’t just to make the place look cool but rather to create physical, psychological, and economic benefits for the community. The numbers don’t lie. This little design tweak worked some big-time magic: pedestrian injuries decreased by 40 percent, vehicular accidents went down by 15 percent, and overall crime in the area decreased by 20 percent.

Living in a big city among strangers can be terrifying. It’s easier for us to be kinder and more compassionate when we enjoy what we see just a little bit more.

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