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Navigating Complex Buildings: Cognition, Neuroscience and Architectural Design

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Abstract

In recent years, interest has been sparked by the overlap between architecture and neuroscience (Eberhard, 2009; 2007; Mallgrave 2010). The majority of this research appears to focus on either one of two areas: how building users experience architecture and how this may affect them emotionally or, alternatively, on the creative process of architectural design: how architects design buildings and what happens at the neurological level, during the creative act. In Eberhard’s 2009 article in Neuron, he describes the five broad areas that are studied in neuroscience as being: 1)sensation and perception, 2) learning and memory, 3) decision making, emotion and affect, and 4)movement or “how do we interact with our environment and navigate through it?” (Ibid. p.755). It can be seen that the majority of research hitherto undertaken on the boundaries between neuroscience and architecture fit into the first and fourth of these areas. This paper, in contrary to these other approaches, firmly concentrates on this latter area of study. To some extents, we are also addressing the third area, namely decision making, but only insofar as it is part of the act of wayfinding and navigation.