Why Brain Architecture Matters for Built Architecture

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Why Brain Architecture Matters for Built Architecture
The facade of the Villa Rotunda

We know Palladio’s Villa Rotunda as iconic. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the 1567 structure in Vicenza, Italy, influenced the creation of a litany of other public and private buildings across Europe and beyond, including The White House. But only recently have we gained insight into why it holds such power and why it won’t abate.

New findings in neuroscience give us a clue. It seems that we see the world like an animal does, which of course, makes sense because we are one. And animals look out on their world in a very specific way, with their brains wired to prioritize processing some objects – the ones most important for survival – first, the face.

While we ‘see’ with our eyes, we process visual input with our gray matter, which as it turns out, arrives pre-loaded to handle critical input. It is believed that all mammals, including humans, have a ‘figural primitive’ in the brain, a pattern with two dots representing eyes, a vertical line representing a nose and a horizontal one for the mouth, at the ready to perceive upright face-like input instantaneously.

We create our worldview via this evolutionary ‘scrim’, or blueprint, subconsciously seeking out faces everywhere, all the time. Our bias for viewing visages even slips over to what we make and revere. []