by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Nikos Salingaros writes for the Martin Center about problems in current architecture instruction.
We are at a pivotal point in recognizing the relationship between the built and natural environments and human health and well-being. Architects are increasingly called upon to be more than narrow technical specialists or mere “creative” suppliers of exotic, art-led designs. They must instead become leaders and collaborators within problem-solving teams focusing on the problems of people and of society as a whole. To this end, architects need to understand the most relevant findings of science and evidence-based applications to policy and practice.
Therefore, architecture students need to know recent findings in cognition, neuroscience, and psychology on how structures affect our physiological and psychological health.
Beauty (i.e. pleasure) is a neurological response we instinctually, physically, and subliminally yearn for to support our health and well-being. Students should learn to assess the likely effects of forms on users—how architecture affects experience and perception—by applying scientific methods of evidence and experiment.
Buildings also must fundamentally contribute to the public realm, and architects need to understand the social, environmental, and economic dimensions of that imperative. Architecture should re-focus on the requirements of the public realm, and of its (public) users.
Scientific evidence shows that some buildings and places make us feel at home, alive, and whole, whereas others literally diminish us. The first place to understand that impact and meaning is in the student’s own feelings and self. A designer must distinguish between their momentary experience and excitement caused by a piece of abstract art and their much more important duty to elevate the quality of life for the people who live and work in and among the architecture.