Abstract: Meaning in Architecture: Affordances, Atmosphere and Mood, began as a public forum about human awareness of building, specifically speaking to the significance of affordances, embodied simulation theory, atmosphere and mood. It is herewith presented in copy form for broader distribution. An exchange between scientists and architects, this symposium was the inaugural Interface event of ANFA (the Academy of Neuroscience for Architecture, Salk Institute) held 17 April 2018 in the Regnier Forum of APDesign, Kansas State University. The authors for Meaning in Architecture: Affordances, Atmosphere and Mood will escort you to the intersection of deep brain function, as studied by neuroscientists, and our built-environment the expertise of architects. Unmistakably, these subjects are no longer separate matters of analysis, rather a collective pursuit to discover the physiological framework when confronted with our natural and built environment. Or to borrow from Dr. Rooney’s “Introduction:”
What benefit, if any, is there to gain by combining the efforts of architecture and neuroscience? The former profession lays claim to thousands of years of physically manifesting civilization, while the latter, whose own enlightenment is taking shape, has greatly expanded our conceptualization of how our minds operate. Did the ancient Greeks suffer from a lack of neuroscientific knowledge when building the Parthenon? Did early neuroscientist need to know about architecture in order to discover the relationship between lesions and motor activity? No. Although that answer is true, it seems to remove a very common element amongst both professions. The element of environments. Regardless of your position as an architect, a neuroscientist or as a lay philosopher, humans live in the world and that world is predominantly built by humans. Any study of neuroscience inevitably must ground its findings in our world if it is to say anything useful, and any built architecture must come forth through the use of imagination held together by the neurons firing across regions in the brain.
Speaking to our body, brain, and environments agenda, Dr. Michael Arbib, a neuroscientist studying buildings and their design, discusses in “The Architecture-Neuroscience Conversation and the Action-Perception Cycle,” the makeup of our brain and its relevant purposes, specifically the significance of the hippocampus. With knowledge stretching beyond cognitive generalities, architects and neuroscientists alike can begin to join design intentions to the human’s subconscious need to create place and memory through cognitive mapping. Through “Place, Peripheral Vision, and Space Perception: a pilot study in VR.” Dr. Colin Ellard and Robert Condia demonstrate the consequences of our peripheral and central vision. Investigated were measured human physiological responses, using biofeedback technology for subjects in virtual reality settings of 2 urban squares one classical and one in glass modernism. The lesson learnt is that central vision has little to do with perceiving where we are in space. Similarly, Dr. Brent Chamberlain’s “The Physio-Affective Built Environment” explores the exchange of the body and space in a direct application to our urban environment in a real-world experiment. Exposing our bodies to different environmental characteristics allow for real time biological results when crossing a street or turning a corner; an action we perform in our daily lives without consideration for its effect on our physiology.
Our contract with space is this, the environment (built and otherwise) directly effects how we feel at any particular moment and place in time. Necessarily, our conversation begins by exploring the brain and body’s physiological response to constructed environments. To wit. recent advances in the biological sciences confirm how we construct and imagine space, while opening new doors to understanding perception holistically within our experience of architecture and urban design. Architecture embodies our natural tendencies and potentials for actions, what we now know as affordances of space. Interestingly, what you expect of a place has much to do with what it will afford you.
''This collection of research uncovers key findings--for one, that central, focused vision has little to do with how we experience the ambience of a city square, that peripheral vision is more suited to the richness of architectural experience and that expectation and imaginative perception condition what our surroundings might afford us. These findings confirm what the very best architects have long known through their embodied knowledge honed in many years of practice--making it available to young architects who are just entering the field. What is more--the process of this research underscores the value of interdisciplinary collaboration precisely because it brings the embodied methods and intuitions of the architect together with the biocultural constraints being discovered in neuroscience to bear on the crucial project of designing the settings in which our daily lives unfold." - Sarah Robinson, AIA
New Prairie Press
Architecture and neuroscience, built-environment, action perception cycle, affordances, atmosphere, mood, architecture, neuroscience, cognitive maps, physiology, biology, vision, central versus peripheral vision, hippocampus, space perception, study in virtual reality, memory, physio-affective, Taxon-Affordance Model, World Graph Model, well-being, emotional state, biometric data
Architecture | Neurosciences
Condia, Bob; Arbib, Michael; Ellard, Colin; Chamberlain, Brent; and Rooney, Kevin, "Meaning in Architecture: Affordances, Atmosphere and Mood" (2020). NPP eBooks. 33.
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