Design Inspiration: How it Affects Your Psyche… and Your Body
The 2017 Conscious Cities Conference recently ended in London, England, and marked the second time neuroscientists, architects, and techies gathered together to examine how buildings and cities affect humans.
The idea behind the conference is that the physical environment exerts a measured influence on human behavior, and to seek better ways into designing a “Conscious City” that offers more empathetic, dynamic, and adaptable spaces.
If all this sounds very cutting edge, one should be reminded that a famous man said decades ago that:
“We shape our buildings and afterwards our buildings shape us.”
The man was Sir Winston Churchill, quoted as he as surveyed the damages done and repairs needed after World War II bombings of London’s House of Commons.
The notion that buildings and cities affect human moods and sense of well-being is backed by science. The hippocampal region of the human brain has specialized cells that show a measurable response to how the environment around us changes.
A recent Virtual Reality study found that most people feel better in a room that features more curved edges and rounded contours, rather than a more typical rectangular room with sharp edges. And another virtual reality study in Iceland in 2013 found that mental engagement was most high on streets with the most architectural variety.
Beyond this, scientists like Andreas Meyer-Lindenberg at the University of Heidelberg cite academic studies that show urban living can actually physically change entire brain biology. Areas of the brain linked to stressful experiences (in the prefrontal cortex and the anterior cingulate cortex) showed reduced gray matter and those in urban environments were measured to have a higher likelihood of schizophrenia.
Human Living Environment Failures of the Past
The idea of a ‘Conscious City’ does indeed seem a better approach than some of the notable failures of the past. Just listen to how Sierra Milton, a resident of the infamous Chicago Housing Authority’s public housing project Cabrini-Green, as quoted in the New York Times:
“I want to be out of here so bad. There are people hiding everywhere, in the hallways, around the corners. I want to go because I’m scared. I’ve been living here since 1998 and this is the worst I ever felt.”
Then there was the 1950s Pruitt-Igoe housing complex in St Louis, Missouri. Neither it nor Cabrini Green would be considered by many to in any way enhance human living or the human spirit. Instead, both locations became symbols of social dysfunction. Pruitt-Igoe was demolished in 1972; Cabrini Green in 2011.
Neuroscience and Building Environments
For the past 15 years neuroscience—the study of the human brain and nervous system– has proven vital in demonstrating how cities affect the people who live in them—including correlation between urban environments and stress. The Conscious Cities conference looked at ways that Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Virtual Reality (VR) impact how the urban environment of the future can be designed, imagined, and built. The goal of the conference is utilizing technology to create more ‘empathetic, dynamic, and adaptable spaces.’
The actual concept of ‘Conscious Design’ is a new one, but there are already lots of examples of spaces created with greater awareness towards how those spaces will affect their users’ needs. “There are some really good guidelines out there” says Ruth Dalton, a student of architecture and cognitive science at Northumbria University in Newcastle.
One simple solution was offered by Walk Your City, whose first deployment was in North Carolina with Walk Raleigh. By simply indicating the number of walking minutes to a nearby destination, human scale was introduced as city highlights were identified. The idea has caught on in other cities, including Santa Fe.
Then there is Via Verde, in the Bronx, N.Y. which was designed by Dattner Architects and others to support a healthy and active lifestyle. The mixed-use sustainable & affordable housing features open spaces and garden plots for residents.
Spaces designed by people, and designed to complement the way people live—it’s not a new idea, but one whose time has surely come. Design Inspiration, after all, requires the human element to create and to appreciate. Roos International salutes the Conscious Cities movement, and the ways in which it inspires Design Inspiration all over the world.
Your own Conscious design and artistic vision can be helped by Roos International. After all, we’ve helped foster Design Inspiration for 30 years now, and exist to help transform artistic visions into reality.
Roos can help you bring your plan and design your project, and bring it to life. You’ll get the tools, guidance, innovative materials and an entire Design Showroom to help you fulfill your vision.
Like these Interlam Barnwood Veneers, with a warm, rustic look. All the intriguing texture, knots, and natural markings of real wood—because it is real wood. The difference is the thin slice allows for uses where the heft and cost of solid pieces of reclaimed wood is impractical.
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Roos makes it easy to design and create a an environment with the human element front and center—a space with which human activity and appreciation is fostered. Come create your own truly Conscious masterpiece, with the largest selection of decorative surfacing materials for walls, surfaces, and ceilings all in one place.
30 years of Design Inspiration.