The potential of neuroarchitecture and the built environment for brain health and creativity
Nowadays, we spend more than 90% of our time indoors, and the profound impact of architecture on our brains and bodies is becoming increasingly apparent. Interest in understanding how the environment affects human well-being is growing, with more and more new research on this topic appearing every year. Additionally, architecture firms are increasingly leveraging the expertise of researchers and human experience design consultants to explore and optimize these effects.
Architects and scientists are currently identifying environmental factors to optimize human performance in the built environment. While this research is still ongoing, research is already showing the potential benefits of “environmental enrichment” for brain health based on promising results observed in animals with DNA similar to humans.
An enriched environment maintains healthy brain stimulation, thereby increasing brain activity. Over time, such an environment promotes the strengthening of our nervous systems and the generation of new neurons. This, in turn, allows us to continue to learn, be more creative, stay engaged, and become more resilient to disease throughout our lives.
These environments are defined by four key elements: providing motor, cognitive, sensory and social stimulation. These basic conditions have been an integral part of our humanity for as long as we have existed. On the other hand, when we find ourselves in poverty or deprived circumstances, it can lead to worsening brain health. This decline can have lasting effects on our overall well-being and may affect our ability to maintain autonomy and independence as we age.
To apply this method, you need to understand three basic stages:
Neural Structure and Why You Should Know About It?
“The spirituality of this building was very inspiring and gave me intuitive insights beyond any of my previous experiences.”
The beauty and architectural inspiration of the Cathedral of San Francesco in Assisi, Italy, played an important role in Jonas Salk’s discovery of the polio vaccine. This achievement prompts us to think about architecture’s potential to influence and shape our actions and emotions in the world.
Nearly a decade after his death, the Architectural Neuroscience Academy (ANFA) was founded. John Eberhard emphasizes that incorporating neuroscience knowledge into building design can create hospitals where patients recover faster, schools where students retain information more effectively, and offices where people work together more successfully.
However, the question remains: How can neuroarchitecture contribute to the development of spaces that promote well-being and creativity while fostering positive human experiences?
Creativity and Architecture
In a Western context, creativity is defined as the ability to “generate ideas.” A large number of research results show that creativity is related to the following factors:
- Cognitive stimulation: Moderate stimulation can enhance creativity, while stimulation that is too high or too low can inhibit creativity.
- Fun social interaction: Multiple opportunities to choose who to interact with and where promote creative thinking.
- Ambivalence: People given the opportunity to choose between opposites tend to recognize unusual connections between concepts and circumstances.
- Variety and novelty: These factors have a positive impact on our ability to seek, interact with and generate ideas.
The conditions that foster creative thinking must be dynamic, promoting seamless transitions of our attention between our surroundings and our inner thoughts. These spaces should be rich environments that engage users on sensory, cognitive, physical and social levels.
Feelings of contradiction and surprise can be linked to the use of artwork, art installations or interactive elements in the design of the space. These elements work by triggering emotions, which in turn prompt reflection, inspire curiosity, and disrupt habitual patterns.
Users often experience ambivalence and creativity when encountering unconventional and unexpected spatial solutions that diverge from conventional expectations for specific functionality, including non-obvious behaviors and emotions that deviate from expected norms.
natural, active and sporty
Incorporating elements such as vegetation into architectural design is an effective approach. Biophilic design focuses on integrating nature directly or indirectly into the built environment, has the potential to enhance creativity, and is related to attention restoration theory. This theory, proposed by Rachel Kaplan and Stephen Kaplan, suggests that interaction with natural elements can improve a person’s ability to concentrate.
Even after long periods of intense concentration and activity, simply gazing at nature can restore our ability to focus. This is why natural environments often make us feel more relaxed and welcome.
Another dimension of this interplay involves the presence of organic shapes, smells, sounds, textures and structures. These elements, coupled with the relaxation they bring, become a source of inspiration and stimulation for thinking and creativity.
Promoting creativity goes beyond incorporating biophilic design into buildings and interior spaces; it also includes providing vegetative views through windows and creating green environments around buildings.
An environment conducive to creativity promotes interaction between individuals with different perspectives. Another aspect of neuroarchitecture emphasis is the promotion of social integration and motivation. The built environment can facilitate serendipitous encounters, spontaneous conversations, engaging discussions, and the inspiration that often arises from such encounters.
Designers can enhance well-being and focus by encouraging movement and providing a variety of seating options, desks and tables in workplace design. These options help change postures, including standing, rocking, rotating, and traditional sitting.
Thus, in the long term, an enriched environment can promote mental health, creativity, and the preservation of positive human experiences. In contrast, an environment of poverty has the opposite effect, gradually damaging our overall quality of life. Maintaining a healthy mind is undoubtedly complex, but it can be achieved through the principles of neural architecture.
For those seeking longevity, it is necessary to spend longer periods of time in an enriched environment, as this can produce lasting and lasting biological, psychological, and social changes.