27 December 2019 Contributions of neuroscience to architecture
Knowing how to identify the advances in science and its direct influence on the professions is a necessary exercise for every professional who seeks to keep up to date. In architecture, the development of neuroscience and the discoveries about the way the brain reads environments have allowed more assertive ways of awakening the senses of users to be brought to the composition of spaces.
I have invited the architect and urban planner, Miriam Runge, to a high-level chat. She has been dividing her time between the development of commercial and residential projects, while seeking to nurture knowledge about neurobusiness – a strand of neuroscience applied to business. As a born thinker and researcher, Miriam has drawn several parallels between neuroscience and her contribution to the development of architectural projects. And it is about these inferences that we will go over in this constant search for outlining neuroarchitecture today. Check it out:
Lorí Crízel ― Could you briefly tell us about your professional career and the quest to bring neuroarchitecture into your projects?
Miriam Runge ― I have always been interested in developing commercial projects. My first participation in Casa Cor was with a commercial project. Then the market’s own appeal led me to take up residential projects more prominently. But I have always observed the evolution of commercial architecture and, whenever possible, I got involved in the development of projects of this nature. With the arrival of neuroarchitecture, I felt the need to seek through studies a better understanding of how to think about projects from this perspective. Studies have allowed me to go a little beyond that traditional architecture that we all know. It has been enriching to understand how people’s emotions and behavior in spaces can be influenced by architectural intervention. We currently seek to specialize in how architecture can contribute to promote experience for its users.
Lorí Crízel ― In your studies on neurobusiness, have you drawn parallels with regard to commercial architecture?
Miriam Runge ― When we study the influence of neuroscience on architecture, we have access to studies that show its application, for example, in health: where the main focus is on providing well-being and the contribution of the environment in the healing process. And in commercial architecture, we realize that neuroscience starts to integrate projects via studies derived from marketing. And marketing is designed to sell something. Its essence is in the sale. Therefore, commercial architecture has sought to work with these two conditionings – the space and the purpose of sale – in a rather advantageous way. In addition to aesthetic and functionality issues, architects must take into account the way their project will provide the best experience for the customer, in terms of sales. After all, the store’s main premise is to promote the shopping experience and the architect is responsible for designing the environments having this as one of the main focus in his or her project.
Lorí Crízel ― And how do you assess the influence of commercial architecture on consumer behavior?
Miriam Runge ― The studies I have done show that no one will enter a store or buy something if they are not fit for that moment of purchase, however interesting the store may be. Regardless of the many resources that the store provides and all the attractive features designed for its composition. The purchase takes effect through the person’s desire to obtain something. We are taking steps that lead us to understand neuroscience more effectively. I believe that within ten years, all architects should be properly nourished by such concern to the point of bringing into their projects the advances achieved by this scientific area. When we think about consumer behavior, we know that what makes people buy something is the effect of generating dopamine on the brain, a neurotransmitter responsible for generating future pleasure with this purchase. So, when I look at an outfit, I imagine myself in that outfit. How does architecture come into this moment from the desire to the purchase being made? By providing the right environment that allows me to feel good when I want that outfit. The sum of the desire aligned to the message of the environment leads me to buy that outfit. That is why, in some cases, when trying on the clothes at their home, the person does not have the same impression that he or she had while in the store. Because the home environment may not trigger in them the same dopamine load that was produced when they were in the store.
Lorí Crízel ― And what about the choice processes when buying, how does neuroscience explain the fact that, when in doubt between two products, we end up choosing to take both?
Miriam Runge ― Neuroscience shows us that making decisions “tires” the brain, it demands a lot of brain energy. So, in the decision-making process, the brain looks for shortcuts that allow it to spend less energy. In the purchase process, this is often seen when the person having to choose one out of two pieces ends up having both, even if they are very similar.
Lorí Crízel ― At what point did architecture and neuroscience start to dialogue with one another?
Miriam Runge ― The 80’s were decisive for the advancement of neuroscience in other areas such as architecture and marketing, for example, since it was from there that we started to have a more detailed mapping of brain behavior. During this period, we had a leap in applied neuroscience which could then be shared with other areas of knowledge. Today, we are walking in parallel with these discoveries. We started being able to base our behavior on exams and the visual mapping of these experiments. We are having access to various types of measurements on human behavior. I recently took a course where the professional who was ministering showed us the results of measuring palm sweating with devices. Architecture enters the moment in which we are able to start measuring these reactions and this knowledge is better disseminated. The brain is being further noticed and better interpreted.
Lorí Crízel ― What are the cognitive movements which we can awaken in the user when designing an environment?
Miriam Runge ― When we think about corporate environments, we realize that current trends lead us to seek the well-being of employees. The whole issue of the corporate as development throughout history has reached the point where people can even feel exploited by the company, often in an unhealthy place, dedicating themselves for many hours in a row in poorly lit and uncomfortable environments that do not give them any satisfaction. Today, well-being appears as the protagonist of projects, even to ensure productivity. Adequate lighting, ventilation, and colors promote spaces aimed at awakening the ability to concentrate and others that excel in living together. I do not like to think that all projects should be of the standard of these big technology companies that pride themselves on their free plans, with a pool table sharing space with workstations. This should be analyzed according to the profile of the office and the nature of the work. Activities that excel in awakening creativity even benefit from this format. But functions that require greater concentration are not suitable for this blueprint. It is the role of the architect to know how to understand these needs in order to propose more assertive projects, striving for the welfare of all and for the adapting to the company’s objective.
Lorí Crízel ― What are the main factors that the architect should pay attention to when seeking to convey the ideal conditions for purchase, when he is designing a store, for example?
Miriam Runge ― The first thing to think about is consistency with the project. What product will this space present? Thinking about designing a women’s store is different than thinking about a chocolate store. Some items like consistency and identification with the customer that we want to reach. This mental trigger is activated from the moment the customer identifies with the product and to the way it is exposed. We have to look through architecture to show the customer ways of identification so that he or she feels able to relate, engage with the brand and product and then desires to make the purchase.
Lorí Crízel ― Can you imagine the development of architecture without taking into account the advances made by neuroscience?
Miriam Runge ― I cannot imagine such a thing. This becomes very clear to me every time I study something new in neuroscience. The first trigger of the architect when faced with a new project is to look for references of what is being done in the market. We look for references to inspire us. Neuro offers us a new path. A way of looking at the consumer human being first and then thinking about what is already consecrated in the market. Neuroarchitecture is an evolution of the architecture market. Anyone who does not fall into this topic may be doomed to be out of the market. Neuro gives us proven design resources to be more assertive in this constantly evolving market.
About Miriam Runge:
Miriam Runge ― Architect and Urbanist graduated from UFRGS 1993 and Specialist in Furniture Design by UCS in 2003. Since 1998, she has worked at her own office – m.runge arquitetura. She has participated 11 times in Casa Cor RS, receiving several awards in her spaces. She has numerous works published in newspapers, magazines, and local and national publications. She joined the teaching staff of the graduate program at UNIRITTER in Porto Alegre/RS and UNIFRA in Santa Maria/RS. She is currently a guest professor by IPOG in the Materials & Coatings, Office Management and Construction Management modules. Creator and lecturer at the IAB-POA of the Management and Planning course at the Architecture Office with 10 editions held in RS. Graduated in CBO from IP2 Neurobusiness in Curitiba and currently undergoing an MBA in Neurobusiness from FAMAQUI-INFINITY in Porto Alegre. She has numerous works in the residential and commercial areas with clients in Porto Alegre, Gramado, Santa Catarina and São Paulo.