Cognitive Architecture - Designing for How We Respond to the Built Environment

Author(s): Ann Sussman

theory and history | Routledge

In Cognitive Architecture, the authors review new findings in psychology and neuroscience to help architects and planners better understand their clients as the sophisticated mammals they are, arriving in the world with built-in responses to the environment that have evolved over millennia. The book outlines four main principles---Edges Matter, the fact people are a thigmotactic or a 'wall-hugging' species; Patterns Matter, how we are visually-oriented; Shapes Carry Weight, how our preference for bilateral symmetrical forms is biological; and finally, Storytelling is Key, how our narrative proclivities, unique to our species, play a role in successful place-making. The book takes an inside-out approach to design, arguing that the more we understand human behavior, the better we can design for it. The text suggests new ways to analyze current designs before they are built, allowing the designer to anticipate a user's future experience. More than one hundred photographs and drawings illustrate its key concepts.
Six exercises and additional case studies suggest particular topics - from the significance of face-processing in the human brain to our fascination with fractals - for further study.

Winner of the Environmental Design Research Association 2016 Place Research Award


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Ann Sussman, AIA, an architect, works as an artist, writer and community organizer. With Justin Hollander, she created the Open Neighborhood Project, using art, craft and technological tools to increase public participation in planning, and earning the Commonwealth's "Gold Star Award" in 2010. Her studio is at ArtScape in the Bradford Mill, an art and business enclave in Concord, Massachusetts, USA. Justin Hollander, PhD, AICP is an Associate Professor in the Department of Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning at Tufts University, Medford, Massachusetts, USA, and the author of three previous books on city planning and design: Polluted and Dangerous (2009), Principles of Brownfield Regeneration (2010), and Sunburnt Cities (2011).

1. A New Foundation: Darwin, Biology and Cognitive Science 2. Edges Matter: Thigmotaxis ('wall-hugging') 3. Patterns Matter: Faces and Spaces 4. Shapes carry Weight: Bilateral Symmetry, (Hierarchy), Curves and Complexity 5. Storytelling is Key: We're Wired for Narrative 6. Nature is our Context: Biophilia and Biophilic Design Appendix: More on the Morphology and Function of the Human Brain. Acknowledgments. Index

General Fields

  • : 9780415724692
  • : Taylor & Francis Ltd
  • : Routledge
  • : October 2014
  • : books

Special Fields

  • : Ann Sussman
  • : Paperback
  • : 212