Mind in Architecture

Mind in Architecture: Neuroscience, Embodiment, and the Future of Design
Sarah Robinson, Juhani Pallasmaa (Editors)
The MIT Press, April 2015

Hardcover (2017 in paperback) | 7 x 9 inches | 270 pages | 71 illustrations | English | ISBN: 978-0262533607 | $39.95 

Publisher's Description:
Although we spend more than ninety percent of our lives inside buildings, we understand very little about how the built environment affects our behavior, thoughts, emotions, and well-being. We are biological beings whose senses and neural systems have developed over millions of years; it stands to reason that research in the life sciences, particularly neuroscience, can offer compelling insights into the ways our buildings shape our interactions with the world. This expanded understanding can help architects design buildings that support both mind and body. In Mind in Architecture, leading thinkers from architecture and other disciplines, including neuroscience, cognitive science, psychiatry, and philosophy, explore what architecture and neuroscience can learn from each other. They offer historical context, examine the implications for current architectural practice and education, and imagine a neuroscientifically informed architecture of the future.

Architecture is late in discovering the richness of neuroscientific research. As scientists were finding evidence for the bodily basis of mind and meaning, architecture was caught up in convoluted cerebral games that denied emotional and bodily reality altogether. This volume maps the extraordinary opportunity that engagement with cutting-edge neuroscience offers present-day architects.
dDAB Commentary:
On Thursday I reviewed Baukultur, the second issue of Intertwining, a journal that aims to "weave together multiple disciplinary strands together in a mutually enlightening way." Neuroscience is one of those strands -- the main one, actually. The embrace of neuroscience and its application to architecture is shared by Intertwining and Mind in Architecture, the 2015 collection of essays that arose from the "Minding Design" symposium held at Taliesin West in 2012. The two publications also share an editor, architect Sarah Robinson, as well as a number of the same contributors or voices, including fellow editor Juhani Pallasmaa (he contributed to the first issue of Intertwining), Harry Francis Mallgrave, Michael Arbib, and Alberto Pérez-Gómez. One gets the impression when looking at the table of contents to each publication that the world of neuroscience/architecture is a small one of devoted theoreticians and practitioners. While there are echoes of the environment-behavior studies from the 1970s that I learned about in architecture school a couple decades later, much of the research in neuroscience applicable to architecture is so recent it's too early to determine if, or how, it will be embraced by the larger profession. Nevertheless, publications such as these two and Sarah Williams Goldhagen's Welcome to Your World point to a slow but steady increase in educating architects and architecture students about the benefits of paying attention to the revealing studies of the brain taking place today.

Minus Michael Arbib, the contributors to Mind in Architecture listed above reside in the realm of architecture, alongside architects Melissa Farling and Alessandro Gattara, the latter an editor of Intertwining with Robinson. Most of the book's other contributors, like Arbib, are more firmly situated in science, meaning Mind in Architecture balances voices from the two fields; the essay co-written by Gattara with neurology professor Vittorio Gallese can be seen to merge them into one. The Academy for Neuroscience in Architecture (ANFA), formed in San Diego in 2003, is an important body worth mentioning, with numerous book contributors linked to it and its ongoing role in almost single-handedly furthering the application of neuroscience to architecture. Mind in Architecture is a scholarly collection of essays, one that architects interested in neuroscience will already have or be familiar with. But those looking to dive into the links between architecture and neuroscience should read Welcome to Your World before reading Mind in Architecture's more in-depth, nuanced takes on, very broadly, the embodied experiences of people in the built environment. Yet with nearly ten years having elapsed since the symposium some of these papers were culled from, I'm guessing a lot of headway has been made in neuroscience and its potential applications to architecture. Nevertheless, this book remains one of the best arguments for moving architecture in a direction that acknowledges how the built environment affects us in every way, from our daily movements down to the movement of neurons in our brains.

Author Bio:
Sarah Robinson is a practicing architect and the author of Nesting: Body, Dwelling, Mind. Juhani Pallasmaa, architect, educator, and writer, is the author of more than thirty books, including The Eyes of the Skin: Architecture and the Senses.
Purchase Links:
(Note: Books bought via these links send a few cents to this blog, keeping it afloat.)

Buy from Amazon Buy from Book Depository Buy via IndieBound Buy from AbeBooks