I’ve discussed the healing power of nature elsewhere in the this blog (Nature and health), but of course architecture can work in a similar way. Esther Sternberg, MD, a neuroimmunologist and medical researcher, describes how simply changing the ceiling tiles in an intensive care unit to cut noise levels led to shorter hospital stays and a marked improvement in the well-being of both patents and nurses.
That’s just a tiny example of what’s possible. In a lecture on neuroscience and architecture, Fred H. Gage explains that the “environment can modulate the function of genes and, ultimately, the structure of our brain”. Thus “architectural design changes our brain and our behaviour” (2003).
The places where we live, play and work have a significant impact on us. If hospitals can be made more conducive to healing, perhaps the architecture of schools or universities could promote creativity. It seems so: John Eberhard, one of the leading researchers in this field, suggests that “sharing the use of small conference spaces in hallways not only provides opportunities for interdisciplinary exchanges but stimultes cognitive activity in general” (Eberhard, 2008).
This is a very new area and there is a lot of work to be done, but the principle behind this research is that bodymind and place are intimately related. The big adventure is finding out how, and what that means for us.