What do you teach?
Associate Professor, Leading the Neuroscience and Architecture Program
What is your background?
NOX/ Lars Spuybroek experimental architecture studio, Rotterdam NL
Albert Kahn Associates, Detroit MI
SOM, New York
Dan Graham, artist
Arakawa Gins, artists/architects
Ph.D. Architectural Association, UK
Master of Architecture, Cranbrook Academy of Art, MI
Bachelors in Architecture & Design, ASU, AZ
How long have you been teaching at NewSchool?
What is your favorite class to teach?
All classes that are engaging in deep dialogue for developing architecture and design.
What is your favorite aspect of teaching at NewSchool?
There are several! One of the best things about NewSchool is the people who are here. I have made some really nice friendships with colleagues over the past year and am looking forward to developing collaborations on various levels with them. I love when [President] Marvin shares his anecdotes, he’s such a great storyteller and so informed in design he always grabs my attention! I love the small school and the attitude of Changeability – because we can and because we have good ideas! I love the Neuroscience and Architecture program – it’s been a dream of mine for a long time – since 2000 in fact, wow 19 years ago! I love the collaborations we do with scientists who dedicate their time in the NSfA program, the scientists at Salk Institute and the ANFA program.
What projects are you currently working on?
- “Sonic-Acupuncture to De-pressure the Mind” (sometimes called “Cloud Therapy Dome”) This began as an idea in 2013 but has been dormant until now as it reawakens. The project involves sound vibrations of a gong to calm the mind. Based on neuroscience research, the human brain produces four EEG frequency levels – Beta, Alpha, Theta, and Delta – that are associated with different states of action/mood from alert consciousness to deep sleep. This project implements various sensors in a chamber to detect EEG & EKG signals which communicates to an automated mechanical device that strikes the gong in different patterns to produce sound vibrations relative to the individual’s biorhythm. The vibration is a kind of sonic acupuncture that echoes inside a chamber and within minutes the brainwave moves from Beta to Alpha and ultimately Theta, a meditative, tranquil state. Many researchers on Eastern practices of meditation assert that this ‘sound bath’ heightens the creative mind especially as one removes much of the ‘chatter’ in the mind. When the body undergoes this experience, focus is regained and creative tasks become more vivid. I am working on this particularly for the students who can use this method of immersive sound space to heighten their creativity through relaxation.
- British Pavilion for the Venice Biennale 2020 I am working on a proposal focusing on the politics of Brexit and the exodus of the cultural industry. The “Exodus, or the Voluntary Prisoners of Architecture,” an exemplary thesis project by Rem Koolhaas at the AA in 1972, is the starting point. The project features the WALL that becomes the architectural device for critical investigation on politics, economics, tectonics, marginalization, territorialization, and (cultural) identification.
- AD edited series entitled “The (Neuro)Science of Experience” (working title) I am working on this with Tom Albright at Salk Institute.
- REDCAT LA I am working on plans to create an event in Los Angeles with Fred Marks (ANFA) on the relationship between Architecture, Technology, and Neuroscience.
We hear you recently received some great news! Tell us more.
The past year has been a whirlwind of intense work but it came with great news!
- SOM Foundation Research Prize $40,000 With my team, Biayna Bogosian (USC) and Namju Lee (Esri GIS), SOM-San Francisco selected our proposal to develop a publication on the Architectural Standards from a Neurological Perspective (ASG/NP). Our topic “Humanizing High Density” addresses the challenge of the growing population migrating to cities, as research shows that living in cities effectively “alters our neural processing of acute social stress.” (Andreas Meyer-Lindenberg, Dept. of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy Central Institute of Mental Health). This project starts by measuring the valence of participants in a specified urban context to assess the pressures felt in the body (stress or comfort). For the biometric data acquisition and analysis, we are collaborating with Eduardo Macagno and his team at UCSD. Furthermore, our project will customize a number of mobile sensing units to be distributed in the context to measure quantitative information of the environmental data. This can give us a clear assessment of what environmental factors are triggering certain mental and physical behaviors by the user. The acquired data from the mobile sensing devices will be accessed remotely to continuously analyze and visualize emerging behavioral patterns in order to correlate it to urban attributes. Furthermore, using advanced geotag data acquisition hardware, coupled with GIS-based Mixed-Reality (Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality) visualization and analysis techniques, we aim to simulate the design of the urban context to the user’s response in digital space.
- Intelligent & Informed Conference, New Zealand A paper submitted to the Intelligent & Informed Conference, in New Zealand entitled “The Well Tempered Environment of Experience: (Neuro)Scientific Methods for Data Collection, Analysis & Visualization” was accepted. This features two of our Graduate students’ projects that I have been advising for a sensory derived method of design to enhance the experience in airports. The paper was co-authored with Dr. Dane Clemenson, neuroscientist and Biayna Bogosian, new media architect.
- Smartness? Conference, The Netherlands Presented in November 2018 at the Smartness? Conference, the paper “Empathic Agencies in Urban Design: Inter-Activity of Mirrors & Mirror Neurons” will be published in an upcoming journal “Culture and Architecture” by AHRA, Architecture and Humanities Research Association. The paper features an interactive installation that engages the onlookers in the oldest Cappelleria (hat shop) of Sardinia, in the city of Cagliari. It was not so long ago when strolling down a streetscape was an experience of delight. Walking through the city was an event where department stores lined with extravagant storefront windows aimed to capture the fantasy of an onlooker who glances into the window and is mesmerized into a world of fictional possibilities. Today, with online shopping on the rise, not only has the social engagement of shopping been removed but also the perceptual engagement with objects that we project our desires into when we embody it through multi-sensory engagement. The project is a play on “mirrors” (as virtual dream state) and concepts derived from “mirror neurons” (the empathic agent in our brain) as a way to create a sensor-based interactive shopping window that activates moods, emotions, and delight of people passing by the shop. The paper was co-authored with Dr. Ludovica Maria Tramontin.
- I am excited about a chapter I just finished entitled “FORMing Experience and the Neuroscience of FORM.” This paper advocates for complexity of form as a way to ‘generate life’ and structure experience. It features key works by radical architects Arakawa Gins and NOX/Lars Spuybroek, who were seminal architects applying principles of cognitive science, neuroscience and environmental psychology in their work from the 1970s and 1990s. This paper will be featured in an epic upcoming book on Performativity by our very own Mitra Kanaani in the section called Sensibilities: Intangible and Qualitative Factors in Performative Design Process.
- My abstract on “BrainCity San Diego” has been accepted for Changing Cities IV: Spatial, Design, Landscape and Socioeconomic Dimensions, under this year’s theme: SMART CITIES, smart environment, smart mobility, smart economy. I will be preparing the paper for the conference held in Crete Island, Greece, June 2019.
What are your future plans?
I am focusing intensely to create an exceptional program for Neuroscience and Architecture program here at NewSchool and currently working on our upcoming International Summer Intersession Program. Additionally, with the SOM Research Prize Grant, I am working with Eduardo Macagno to initiate the first Neuroscience Laboratory here at NewSchool.