Neural structure and the potential of the built environment for brain health and creativity
Today, we spend more than 90% of our time indoors, and it is becoming increasingly clear that architecture has a profound impact on our brains and bodies. Interest in understanding how the environment affects human well-being is growing, and the number of new studies on this topic is increasing 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 now pinpointing environmental factors in optimizing human performance within the built environment. Although this research is ongoing, studies are already showing the potential benefits of “environmental enrichment” on brain health, based on promising results observed in animals with human-like DNA.
A rich environment maintains healthy brain stimulation and increases brain activity. Over time, such an environment promotes the strengthening of our nervous system and the generation of new neurons. This allows us to continually learn, become more creative, stay engaged, and build resilience to illness throughout our lives.
These environments are defined by four key elements: providing motor stimulation, cognitive stimulation, sensory stimulation, and social stimulation. These basic conditions have been an integral part of our humanity since the beginning of our existence. On the other hand, if we live in a disadvantaged or poor environment, our brain health may deteriorate. This decline can have a lasting impact on our overall well-being and affect our ability to maintain autonomy and independence as we age.
To apply this, you need to know three important stages:
Neuroarchitecture, why should you know about it?
“The spirituality of architecture was incredibly inspiring and led me to intuitive insights that exceeded all my previous experiences.”
The beauty and architectural inspiration found in the San Francisco Cathedral in Assisi, Italy, played an important role in Jonas Salk’s discovery of the polio vaccine. This result challenges us to think about architecture’s potential to influence and shape our actions and emotions in the world.
Almost a decade after his death, the Academy of Architectural Neuroscience (ANFA) was founded. By integrating neuroscience knowledge into architectural design, John Eberhard is building hospitals where patients recover faster, schools where students retain information more effectively, and offices where people work better together. emphasized that it could lead to
But questions remain. How can neuroarchitecture contribute to the development of spaces that foster both well-being and creativity while fostering positive human experiences?
creativity and architecture
In the Western context, creativity is defined as the ability to “generate ideas.” Numerous research findings show that creativity is particularly associated with the following factors:
- Cognitive stimulation: Moderate stimulation increases creativity, but very high or very low levels inhibit creativity.
- Fun and social interaction: Creative thinking is encouraged by a variety of opportunities to choose who to interact with and where to be.
- Ambivalence: People who have experienced the opportunity to choose between opposites tend to perceive an unusual connection between the concept and the environment.
- Change and novelty: These factors positively impact your ability to search for, interact with, and generate ideas.
The conditions that foster creative thinking need to be dynamic, allowing for a seamless transition of attention between the environment and inner thoughts. These spaces need to be rich environments that engage users on a sensory, cognitive, physical, and social level.
A sense of ambivalence and surprise can be associated with the use of art objects, artistic installations, or interactive elements in spatial design. These elements work by eliciting emotions and, in return, prompting introspection, arousing curiosity, and disrupting habitual patterns.
Users often experience ambivalence and creativity when they encounter unconventional and unexpected spatial solutions that deviate from traditional expectations for specific functionality. This includes non-obvious behaviors and emotions that deviate from expected norms.
Nature, positivity and movement
Incorporating elements such as vegetation into architectural design is a useful approach. Biophilic design, which focuses on directly or indirectly integrating nature into the built environment, has the potential to increase creativity and is associated with attention restoration theory. This theory, developed by Rachel Kaplan and Steven Kaplan, suggests that interaction with natural elements can improve a person’s ability to concentrate.
Even after a long period of intense activity, just looking at nature can help you regain your concentration. This is why natural environments make us feel more safe and welcoming.
Other aspects of this interaction include the presence of organic shapes, scents, sounds, textures, and structures. These elements, combined with the relaxation they bring, serve as a source of inspiration and stimulation for thinking and creativity.
Boosting creativity is not limited to incorporating biophilic design into architecture and interior spaces only. It also includes providing views of plants through windows and creating a green environment around the building.
An environment that fosters creativity fosters interaction between individuals with diverse perspectives. Another aspect emphasized by neuroarchitecture is the promotion of social integration and positivity. The built environment allows for chance encounters, spontaneous conversations, engaging discussions, and the inspiration that often emerges from such encounters.
Designers can increase feelings of well-being and focus by encouraging movement in workplace designs and providing several seating options, desks, and tables. These options facilitate posture changes such as standing, rocking, rotating, and traditional sitting.
As a result, in the long run, a rich environment promotes mental health, creativity, and the maintenance of positive human experiences. In contrast, a poor environment has the opposite effect and gradually undermines our overall quality of life. Maintaining a healthy mind is undoubtedly complex, but it is achievable through neurostructural principles.
For those seeking longevity, it is essential to spend longer periods of time in a rich environment. This allows biological, psychological, and social changes to occur on a continuous and permanent basis.