Conference examines ties between brain, better buildings by Sonja Haller [The Republic]


Can the buildings we inhabit make us well sooner? Can they make prisoners calmer? Can they impact an autistic child?

Scientists and architects will come together today at Scottsdale’s Taliesin West to explore the connection between the brain and buildings.

The “Minding Design: Neuroscience, Design Education, and the Imagination” conference is sold out at 250 participants.

Taliesin West officials see the conference as an opportunity to broaden its reach by connecting experts from around the nation.

Sean Malone, chief executive officer of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, said the scholarly conference embodies the foundation’s vision of transforming people’s lives through Wright’s principles.

“We believe we have an opportunity and responsibility to help shape architecture and design at the highest level,” Malone said, adding that Taliesin West, Wright’s winter home and studio campus that now offers tours and houses the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture, is the ideal place to host. “There was nobody more innovative and engaged than Frank Lloyd Wright.”

Cathedrals, theaters and museums are believed to inspire and heighten creativity, but this conference will delve into what is happening in the brain when we’re inside buildings and how architects can better serve certain populations and humanity.

The symposium brings in neuroscientists and architects from around the country to discuss how environment shapes the human experience through brain research and theories while impacting imagination, health and other areas.

Tricia Anderson, an interior designer in South Bend, Ind., spotted the conference on Taliesin West’s Facebook page and decided it was the perfect complement to her pursuit of advanced degrees in psychology and interior design.

“I’ve always felt that a person’s environment not only reflects your personality, but it also has a strong effect on your creativity and inspiration and your overall well-being,” she said.

Michael Arbib, director of the University of Southern California Brain Project, charted ways in which designing a building can use knowledge of brain function. He is a speaker at the symposium.

Also a member of the Academy of Neuroscience for Architecture (, Arbib said that it may be years before designing a building with a knowledge of brain function becomes widely practiced. But the connection between the two could result in more fruitful lives.

Studies of Alzheimer’s patients may help influence the design of buildings, which could make it easier for them to find their way around. Hospitals may acquire lighting that does not disrupt the body’s circadian rhythms at night.

“I’ll be making every effort to make it clear to the architects why they should care about the brain and how it relates to design,” he said.



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