Neuroscience in Architecture
Stephanie Park in Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality, innovation

A demo of UC San Diego’s StarCAVE—a five-sided virtual reality room. Image courtesy of Flickr user Glenn Ricart.

Looking to Neuroscience for Design's New Solutions

With an ever-growing amount of data from various sources of research, the field of architecture is changing in response to a greater demand for solutions that will have meaningful effects on its occupants. Recently, there have been efforts to incorporate insights from the social sciences, such as behavioral and cognitive psychology, in order to better understand the impact that design has on the occupants’ actions, thoughts and feelings. It should come as no surprise then that designers recognize the potential of neuroscience to uncover how our brains perceive our surrounding environment and then elicit certain cognitive and physiological responses.

Research Questions

There are endless opportunities to apply knowledge from neuroscience in the design process. As we explore these possibilities, it is vital to consider how we will communicate and translate this knowledge in a practical and useful manner. The research project “Application of Neuroscience Data of Design Features in Learning Spaces” strives to understand how neuroscience research can inform the design process in the future with a special regard to learning spaces and to answer the following questions:

Reversable Destiny House, Japan. Photo courtesy of Flickr user Masakazu Matsumoto.


Research Analysis

The analysis explores various physical elements in a classroom setting that carry potential to impact the occupants’ behaviors and emotions. Existing behavioral studies on each element were documented and then used to develop possible neurological studies that further assessed the impact by measuring physiological responses. For example, an existing study shows that higher ceiling height activates concepts related to freedom, thereby demonstrating a potential to affect one’s creativity (Myers-Levy 2007). Possible neurological studies can then go on to analyze the brain’s activation responses for different levels of ceiling heights, as well as a possible connection to certain emotions and concepts. Neurological studies can be used to augment our knowledge from behavioral studies by providing insights to what happens to our brain and body and reduce self-reporting bias.

Graphic created by Stephanie Park.


ANFA Conference 2016

This project was presented at the Academy of Neuroscience for Architecture (ANFA) 2016 Conference. ANFA is an organization that brings together architects, designers, neuroscientists, and psychologists to inspire ideas and opportunities for cross-field collaboration. Participants shared and discussed a wide range of topics, such as designing for individuals with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), analyzing the impact of office configurations on productivity and creativity, and using cognitive spatial mapping to inform an urban layout.

Looking Forward

The field of neuroscience is reigniting exciting possibilities for a transformation in endless design practice areas, such as healthcare, workplaces, education, and retail—as well as architecture as a whole—by paving the way for a complete overhaul in progress, efficiency, and efficacy. The challenges lie in developing methodologies to transpose this wealth of knowledge into practical information that can be best applied and utilized in the design process. As architects and designers, we need to continue to be open-minded and engage other like-minded and well-intending experts spanning the full range of science in order to create meaningful spaces.

Stephanie Park is a consulting analyst in Gensler’s New York Office. Stephanie’s undergraduate background is in Architecture and Psychology, and she’s currently pursuing a Master’s Degree in Data Science. Using both quantitative and qualitative research, Stephanie focuses on developing strategic approaches to enhancing user performance and experience through design. Contact her at
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