A multidisciplinary research study presented at the 2014 Conference of the Academy of Neuroscience for Architecture (ANFA) provides quantitative evidence of the effect of the design of built environments on brain functioning.
Most people have some level of subjective awareness that architecture has a degree of influence on their thoughts and emotions. Design professionals, such as architects and city planners, however, do not currently have any quantitative data about how different architectural elements effect individuals. This lack of data makes designing buildings for particular purposes challenging. To address this issue, a multidisciplinary team from the School of Architecture at Catholic University and the University of Utah School of Medicine conducted a preliminary study using fMRI to measure the brain functioning of 12 male right handed architects when they were shown pictures of building using “contemplative architecture” and buildings without these design elements. The research team presented their findings at the 2014 ANFA Conference.
Different Design Elements Stimulate Different Area of the Brain
In an interview published in The Atlantic, one of the study’s lead researchers, Dr. Julio Bermudez, described contemplative architecture as a design that uses elements typically found in religious buildings. For example, the building that houses the Salk Institute for Biological Studies has a design that echoes elements of a medieval cloister. The results of the study indicated that photographs of buildings with characteristics of contemplative architecture stimulated activity in the area of the brain associated with emotion and pleasure, while buildings with non-contemplative elements triggered activity in the brain region associated with making quick judgment about an object.
Dr. Bermudez and the rest of the research team hope their preliminary study provides justification for funding further research using a larger pool of subjects recruited from the general population.