By: Hanan Rawashdeh
Ever wonder why you can focus better in a particular space more than another? This is what Jonas Salk claimed while working in his basement lab. It wasn’t until after he went to a monastery with colonnaded walks and a beautiful hillside view that he felt serene enough and capable of solving the puzzle of polio. After feeling strongly about the architecture of the monastery with its harmonious elements, textures and colors in inspiring him and clearing the mental obstacles that he hired the architect Louis Khan to design the Salk institute.
It is clear that there is a connection of how much we interact with our surroundings and our mental processing. This has been an argument that many people have claimed, especially architects half a century later research such as the ones made at the Academy of Neuroscience for Architecture in San Diego are being done on this topic. An introduction to neuroscience is even added classes to the architecture program. Experiments have been done to fill in the gap between the mental processing and architecture’s impact upon it. Joan Meyers- Levy a professor of marketing at the University of Minnesota reported that the height of a room’s ceiling affects dramatically on how people think. In 2007 she assigned 100 random students to a room of 8 or 10 feet ceiling giving them a task of categorization of a subject , the same task was given to another group whose setting were in a much lower ceiling height. The results showed that those who were in a room with a higher ceiling had more generic categorizations where as those who were in a low ceilinged room were more specific and focused on details in their categorization. With her past study indicating that elevated ceilings make people less restrained physically this allows them to think freely, which may lead to make more abstract connections as they will see the “big picture” of things. Almost like literally saying “thinking out of the box”. This doesn’t mean that all spaces acquire high ceilings. It depends on the task. For instance a more detail demanding and complicated task at hand would require a low ceiling to ensure a more focused environment. Furthermore space can be manipulated to look spacious and less constrained by mere manipulation either in the use of light colors or mirrors, something one notices in the grocery section of small stores.
Spaces that increase creativity also are linked to nature. Having a space visually connected or within a natural setting such as a garden has been proven to motivate focus and attention. This has been proven through a study done on children who moved house. The children with greener views from their bedroom windows scored higher on the standard test of attention. This is a notion that having green space in educational spaces can help those with ADD.
In conclusion it is vital to understand the influence of architecture on the mind in order for architecture to respond to people’s needs.