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President’s Blog: Exploring the Neuroscience of Design

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“We shape our buildings, and afterwards our buildings shape us,” Winston Churchill* said during the debate over how to rebuild the Commons Chamber after it was destroyed during WWII. Some wanted seating in a horse-shoe design, but with Churchill’s approval, the original adversarial design—with opposing debaters facing each other two sword-lengths apart—was retained as a reminder of the importance of a lively but civil two-party system.

Space and human behavior are intertwined. Understanding neuroscience has everything to do with becoming human-centered designers. It means focusing on people as they are rather than on an idealized image of who they should be. It is coming to understand the nuances of how the mind works and how cognitive experiences can be used to shape architecture, from the simplest wayfinding to complex issues of spatial composition.

On January 25, NewSchool is hosting a public lecture with Colin Ellard to further our thinking about the intersection of architecture and psychology. He joins us from the University of Waterloo in Ontario, where he uses environmental psychology, virtual reality, and other tools to help us understand the impact of urban design on human behavior.

What I hope our students and others in attendance will understand is that design is underpinned by evidence, with a body of literature and knowledge. It isn’t just what comes off the top of their heads. Design is influenced by information and science that should inform a designer as they start making choices that affect how people live, work, and play.

NewSchool will also offer Neuroscience for Architecture from August 14­–17 as one of its intensive course options during our Summer Intersession 2017.

*http://www.parliament.uk/about/living-heritage/building/palace/architecture/palacestructure/churchill/

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