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Structure, Space and the Mind


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"The environment we live in is a 3 dimensional Rorschach test"

How does the environment affect our minds?
How does our psyche shape the environment?

What psychological and biological factors are responsible for our sense of aesthetic?

Inspired by my conversations with Ar. Jaisim, and by the superb book, "The Architecture of Happiness" by Alain De Botton, this presentation explores the interface between psychology and architecture.

Published in: Health & Medicine
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Structure, Space and the Mind

  1. 1. Structure, Space, and the Mind Dr. Shyam K Bhat MD
  2. 2. Objectives <ul><li>An exploration of the overlap between psychology and architecture: </li></ul><ul><li>The Psychology of Aesthetics: Why do we like the designs we like? </li></ul><ul><li>The Psychology of the Environment: How do buildings and spaces affect our moods? </li></ul><ul><li>The Psychology of Client Interactions: What are the psychological causes of disagreements between architect and client? </li></ul><ul><li>The Psychology of the Architect/Engineer: What drives your work and your design choices? </li></ul>
  3. 4. <ul><li>“ Even though I admired the house very much, I always knew that I neither wanted to, nor could, live in it myself. It seemed indeed to be much more a dwelling for the gods than for a small mortal like me.” Hermine </li></ul><ul><li>“ You think philosophy is difficult, but I tell you, it is nothing compared to the difficulty of being a good architect” </li></ul><ul><li>Ludwig Wittgenstein </li></ul>
  4. 6. <ul><li>“ We suffer from a carnival in architecture. Private judgment runs riot. Every architect has a theory of his own.” Augustus Pugin, 1836 </li></ul>
  5. 11. <ul><li>To turn something useful, practical, functional into something beautiful, that is architecture’s duty” Karl Schinkel </li></ul>
  6. 12. <ul><li>Our engineers are healthy and virile, active and useful, balanced and happy in their work, while our architects are disillusioned and unemployed, boastful or peevish. </li></ul><ul><li>This is because there will soon be nothing more for them to do. We no longer have the money to erect historical souvenirs. At the same time, everyone needs to wash! Our engineers provide for these things and so they will be our builders.’ </li></ul>
  7. 13. L’avion Accuse! <ul><li>Adding a classical statue on top of a house is as absurd as adding one on top of a plane. But at least, by crashing, the plane makes this absurdity manifest </li></ul><ul><li>Le Corbusier </li></ul>
  8. 14. “ What man wants is a monk’s cell, well lit and heated, with a corner from which he can look at the stars” Le Corbusier <ul><li>The function of a house: </li></ul><ul><li>Shelter against heat, cold, rain, thieves and the inquisitive </li></ul><ul><li>A receptacle for light and the sun </li></ul><ul><li>A certain number of cells for cooking, work, and personal life </li></ul>
  9. 15. <ul><li>“‘ It’s raining in the hall, it’s raining on the ramp, and the wall of the garage is absolutely soaked. What’s more, it’s still raining in my bathroom, which floods in bad weather, as the water comes in through the skylight.” Madame Savoye, 1936 </li></ul><ul><li>“ You should place a book on the table in the downstairs hall and ask all your visitors to inscribe their names and addresses in it. You’ll see how many fine autographs you will collect” Le Corbusier </li></ul>
  10. 16. <ul><li>“We seek two things of our buildings. We want them to shelter us. And we want them to speak to us – to speak to us of whatever we find important and need to be reminded of.” </li></ul><ul><li>John Ruskin </li></ul>
  11. 18. F F F F
  12. 19. Two Stories About Married Life Rudolf Arnheim
  13. 27. <ul><li>The &quot;wasted space&quot; of any building is &quot;more important than that which is used,&quot; because it provides &quot;space for the subconscious.&quot; Paul Rudolph </li></ul>
  14. 28. The Psychology of Space <ul><li>“People, if they think about architecture at all, usually think in terms of the materials. While that’s important, it’s not the thing that determines the psychology of the building. It’s really the compression and release of space, the lighting of that space—dark to light—and the progression of one space to another.” Paul Rudolph </li></ul>
  15. 29. Architecture is used space formed for psychological and symbolical reasons. Paul Rudolph
  16. 31. &quot;It looks like a place that should be used for human sacrifice.&quot; “ Patients generally like to tap a corridor wall as they walk down it as a way of assuring themselves that they are not falling through a dreamlike vortex. But if you try to touch the wall of a corridor at Lindemann as you walk, your knuckles are likely to be bloodied.”
  17. 32. <ul><li>“ Beauty is the promise of happiness .” Stendhal </li></ul>
  18. 35. The Self and Buildings <ul><li>We harbor within us many different “selves”, not all of which feel equally like “us”. </li></ul><ul><li>Our access to the elusive parts of ourselves are determined by our environment </li></ul><ul><li>Our surroundings can embody the moods and ideas we respect </li></ul><ul><li>We need a home in the psychological sense as well as in the physical sense </li></ul>
  19. 37. Abstraction and Empathy <ul><li>Abstract – symmetry, regularity, order, geometry </li></ul><ul><li>Realistic – Evoking the real world: forests, emotions, elements of tangible experience. </li></ul><ul><li>What we lack is what we like </li></ul>
  20. 40. Space and Our Mind <ul><li>Effect of Panoramic views and greenery on attention in children, Nancy Wells, Cornell Univ, 2000 </li></ul><ul><li>8 foot ceilings vs 10 foot ceilings: Effect on abstract thinking and concrete logic, 2007, </li></ul><ul><li>Joan Meyers-Levy, University of Minnesota </li></ul>
  21. 41. Space and Our Mind <ul><li>William Sullivan of the University of Illinois, 2001: “The parents reported that their children’s ADD symptoms were least severe after they’d been in or observing green spaces.” </li></ul>
  22. 42. <ul><li>Analysis of more than 10,000 fifth-grade students : unrestricted views of at least 50 feet outside the window, including gardens, mountains and other natural elements = Higher scores on tests of vocabulary, language, arts and mathematics compared to students whose classrooms primarily overlooked roads, parking lots and other urban fixtures. </li></ul><ul><li>C. Kenneth Tanner, head of the School Design & Planning Laboratory at the University of Georgia </li></ul>
  23. 43. Light and the Brain <ul><li>Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience - randomly selected six of 12 assisted-living facilities in Holland to have supplemental lighting installed, bringing the luminosity to approximately 1,000 lux; the other six provided dimmer lighting of around 300 lux. </li></ul>
  24. 44. Light, Mood, and Memory <ul><li>The residents of the more brightly lit buildings showed 5 percent less mental decline than occupants of the six darker buildings did. (The additional lighting also reduced symptoms of depression by 19 percent.) </li></ul>
  25. 45. <ul><li>Daylight synchronizes our sleep-wake cycle, or circadian rhythm, enabling us to stay alert during the day and to sleep at night. Nevertheless, many institutional buildings are not designed to let in as much natural light as our mind and body need. </li></ul>
  26. 46. <ul><li>Students in sunny classrooms advanced 26 percent faster in reading and 20 percent faster in maths in one year than did those with the least daylight in their classrooms. </li></ul>
  27. 47. Memory vs. Relaxation <ul><li>In a 2006 study counselors interviewed 80 university students individually in either a dim or a brightly lit counseling room. The students then completed a questionnaire about their reactions to the interview. </li></ul><ul><li>The students questioned in the dim room felt more relaxed, viewed the counselor more positively and shared more information about themselves than those counseled in the brighter room did. </li></ul>
  28. 48. Sharp Edges <ul><li>Neutral objects shown to people </li></ul><ul><li>Sofas, watches, etc: identical except that some had curved or rounded edges, whereas others had sharp, squared-off perimeters. </li></ul><ul><li>Most people preferred objects with softer edges, especially those who were stressed </li></ul><ul><li>(Moshe Bar et al, Harvard) </li></ul>
  29. 49. <ul><li>Repeated test with a fMRI scanner – a machine that can look at real time brain activity – which parts of the brain are more active and which are less active </li></ul>
  30. 50. The Beauty of Symmetry <ul><li>Are our brains hard wired to find symmetry pleasing? </li></ul><ul><li>Is that why we design symmetrical buildings? </li></ul>
  31. 53. The Golden Ratio: 1.6180339887.
  32. 54. Wabi-Sabi
  33. 56. Wabi-Sabi अनित्य <ul><li>Aesthetic that centers on the acceptance of transience and impermanence </li></ul><ul><li>Beauty that is &quot;imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete </li></ul><ul><li>Asymmetry, Simplicity, Modesty, Intimacy, and Natural </li></ul><ul><li>Nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect </li></ul>
  34. 57. Growing Collaboration <ul><li>Academy of Neuroscience for Architecture in San Diego : The mission of the Academy of Neuroscience for Architecture is to promote and advance knowledge that links neuroscience research to a growing understanding of human responses to the built environment. </li></ul><ul><li>Architecture + Health program at Clemson University: The effects of Architecture on Health </li></ul>
  35. 58. Architecture and Psychology in the Real World <ul><li>Hearthstone Alzheimer Care </li></ul><ul><li>Firms like Fathom, a Pittsburgh based group – according to their website, they use the “Zaltman Metaphor Elicitation Technique,&quot; (used for more than a decade by Fortune 500 companies to probe the minds and emotions of customers for marketing purposes) </li></ul>
  36. 59. The Psychology of Space <ul><li>Complete our psychological selves – our aspirations, dreams, hopes, desires </li></ul><ul><li>Reduce our fears and shortcomings – poverty, vulnerability, insecurity </li></ul><ul><li>Authenticity – True and consistent, to time, place, and self </li></ul><ul><li>Integrated – attention to “masculine” and “feminine” elements, order and chaos, symmetry and asymmetry </li></ul><ul><li>Provide a healthy environment for mind and body </li></ul>
  37. 60. Conclusion <ul><li>The psyche is the source, the destination, and the abode, of all architecture </li></ul>
  38. 61. Questions and Comments