Ian Ritchie is Guest Editor of the Architectural Design Journal edition for November/December 2020.
This neuroarchitecture edition will explore learning from neuroscience research to design better environments. Ian has invited a range of contributors from the fields of architecture, neuroscience, psychology and the performing arts.
Neuroscientific research techniques enable us to record the way we perceive and orientate our bodies in space, and the cognitive and behavioural impacts of spatial and architectural design. As a result, we are beginning to understand not only how, but why we respond in certain physiological and emotional ways to our environment. Understanding that architecture has more than a utilitarian or aesthetic function, and how it interacts with all our senses, has the potential to transform the ways we design and engineer architecture, cities, objects and our environment. The relatively new pan-disciplinary field of neuroarchitecture endeavours to integrate these insights with architectural practice.
Our genes are responsible for the design of our brains and our brains drive our behaviour. However, the field of epigenetics has revealed that social and environmental factors can modulate gene expression in ways that are heritable, altering the structure of our brains and consequently our behaviour and that of our children – and so our societies. In this sense, neuroscientific research is allowing us to finally lay to rest Descartian mind-body dualism by revealing the complexities, ambiguities and subtle synergies of the human mind, senses, emotions and physiology in relation to our environment.