Environmental neuroscience is an emerging field devoted to studying the impact of social and physical environments on brain processes and behaviour. From the various opportunities for social interaction to noise levels and access to green spaces, the characteristics of the urban environment have important implications for neural mechanisms and brain functioning, thus influencing our physical state. The field paints a different image of how cities impact our health and well-being, thus providing a new, scientific layer of understanding that could help architects, urban planners, and decision-makers create more equitable urban environments.
Environmental Psychology: The Latest Architecture and News
Within an increasingly specialized environment, architecture is becoming a collective endeavour at every stage of the design process, and social sciences have acquired an important role. As architecture has become more aware of its social outcome, decisions formerly resulted from the speculative thinking of the architect are now backed up by professional expertise. The following discusses the increasing role of humanist professions such as anthropology, psychology, or futurology within architecture.
With most of our lives spent indoors, the space we occupy has a major role in our psychological behavior. Environmental psychology or Space psychology is, in fact, the interaction between people and the spaces they inhabit. Lighting, colors, configuration, scale, proportions, acoustics, and materials address the senses of the individual and generate a spectrum of feelings and practices.
From inducing warmth and safety, defining well-being, or creating a positive and efficient working environment, space can have a whole lot of impact on how we act or on what we feel; therefore, design and creative measures should be considered according to the social and psychological needs of the occupants.
Architecture can give you a headache. That sentence probably doesn't sound surprising for anyone who has dealt with the stress of practicing or studying architecture but, increasingly, psychologists are beginning to understand that you don't need to work on architectural designs for buildings to cause you pain. In an interesting article published by The Conversation, Arnold J Wilkins, a Professor of Psychology at the University of Essex, discusses how discomfort, headaches, and even migraines can be caused or exacerbated by simply looking at certain visual stimuli—with the straight lines and repetitive patterns of urban environments singled out as the main culprit.
This article was originally published by Common Edge as "Sarah Williams Goldhagen on How the Brain Works and What It Means for Architecture."
Sarah Williams Goldhagen has taken a big swing. Her new book, Welcome to Your World: How the Built Environment Shapes Our Lives, is nothing less than a meticulously constructed argument for completely rethinking our way of looking at architecture. A longtime critic for The New Republic and a former lecturer at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, Goldhagen has taken a deep dive into the rapidly advancing field of cognitive science, in an attempt to link it to a new human-centered approach to the built world. The book is both an examination of the science behind cognition (and its relevance to architecture), and a polemic against the stultifying status quo. Recently I talked to the author, who was busy preparing for a year-long trip around the world, about the book, the science, and the state of architectural education.