According to new scientific research, the psychological effect of architecture is the same as meditation. Like meditation architecture will make you more mindful, more peaceful, and happier.
Chartres cathedral in France is one of the most famous examples of Contemplative Architecture
If you’re an architect, this news might give a whole new dimension to your work. A team of neuroscientists recently studied the effect of architecture on the human brain. Their results are bizarre, and also totally amazing.
The neuroscientists used test subjects to prove that “Contemplative architecture” can have the same effect on your brain as meditation. The only difference is that it takes a lot less effort to look at a piece of architecture than it does to meditate.
Architecture has struggled to gain much ground in the scientific community because most don’t deem architecture to be worthy of funding. “It’s difficult to suggest that people are dying from it,” says neuroscientist Dr Julio Burmudez. He studies the qualitative “phenomenologies of our built environment” to reveal how architecture can affect the brain and our health. His team has studied architecture specifically built to be used for contemplating (“Contemplative Architecture”). He theorises that conscious architectural design could lead to reduced stress and other health benefits.
The Salk Institute: An example of Contemplative Architecture
Contemplative architecture includes specific design aspects that have been used in religious settings. Bermudez states, Societies notice the correlation between built beauty and experience over time, and use it in holy places.
Bumudez and his team of researchers showed people 12 photos of contemplative and non-contemplative architecture. The contemplative architecture included Alhambra, the Pantheon, the Chartres Cathedral, the Salk Institute, and the Chapel of Ronchamp. They then observed the test subjects brains via fMRI scans. The subjects who were shown contemplative scenery “imagined they were transported to the places being shown,” says Burmudez.
The fMRI scans revealed that the brain reacts differently to contemplative and non-contemplative architecture. Contemplative architecture led to increased activity in the areas of the brain associated with emotion and pleasure, and less activity in the orbital frontal cortex. The contemplative architecture led to feelings of peacefulness and relaxation, less mind wandering, and increased attention.
This study also suggests that the layout of our home and work could seriously affect our health. Stress is a leading cure of diseases, where relaxation is known to heighted the immune system and lead to improved health.
Amazingly, what this ultimately means, is that if the areas in which we lived were designed using contemplative architecture, we’d be significantly healthier and happier.