sensory science

Courthouse Design Case Study (07-17-15)

On its website (address below) the Center for Active Design shares a case study focused on the active design components of the Superior Court of California, San Benito County in Hollister, CA.  The first paragraph of the case study provides an effective overview of the project: “The Superior Court of California, San Benito County is a new civic building in Hollister, California that provides the community with three courtrooms and a public plaza.

Peripheral Vision During Focused Activity (07-16-15)

New research confirms the importance of carefully managing peripheral vision.  Chen and his colleagues found that even when our eyes are focused on a visually intense task, such as threading a needle, they continue to take micro-second long breaks from that task to monitor activity in peripheral vision.  This finding is likely to have the most significant effect on the design of workplaces as it indicates how important it is that people doing knowledge work are well shielded visually from other people or situations that might be distracting.

Litter Influences Restoration (07-15-15)

Litter along seashores can be natural (for example, seaweed washed up after a storm) or manmade.  The presence of manmade litter reduces how psychologically restorative, or able to counter cognitive fatigue, a stretch of seacoast is perceived to be.  Litter that can be attributed to fishing activity (for example, old nets) isn’t as negative an influence on perceived restorativeness as other human-generated litter (for example, empty beer cans).  As Wyles and her team report, “The beneficial effects of blue environments have been well documented; however, we do not know how marine litter mig

Build in Flexibility (07-14-15)

Applied research at Harvard University indicates the value of creating flexible academic environments and coordinating new space types with desired educational experiences.  A number of new learning spaces have been created at Harvard but one is of particular note: “’SciBox,’ a black box space incomplete with unfinished walls and only portions painted; the room itself has the look and feel of a friendly warehouse. [Harvard physicist Melissa Franklin] wanted to create an atmosphere where it was okay to ‘break stuff.’ . . . Leaving the space unfinished turned out to be a huge challenge. . .

Current Perceptions and Prior Learning (07-13-15)

Anyone who’s conducted design-related research won’t be surprised by new research findings, published in Nature Neuroscience, linking current perceptions to prior experiences.  Scientists have learned that “From the smell of flowers to the taste of wine, our perception is strongly influenced by prior knowledge and expectations, a cognitive process known as top-down control. . . . results support the long-standing theory that the brain does not faithfully represent the environment but rather attempts to predict it based upon prior information.”

Streetscaping for Activity (07-09-15)

Ewing and his colleagues contribute to the body of knowledge linking neighborhood design and walkability.  They report that on-street pedestrian activity is significantly linked to “A composite variable comprised of windows overlooking the street, continuous building facades forming a street wall, active street frontage, proportion of historic buildings, number of buildings with identifiers, and number of pieces of street furniture.”

Air Pollution and Brain Aging (07-08-15)

Air pollution has been tied to cognitive aging.  This link should influence where homes are located and how their HVAC systems are designed, for example.  Findings of a study to be published in the Annals of Neurology indicate that air pollution “may also have a negative impact on how the brain’s white matter ages. The research indicates that older women [71-89 years old] who lived in geographic locations with higher levels of fine particulate matter in ambient air had significantly smaller white matter volumes across a wide range of brain areas.

Appropriately Considering Neighborhood Conditions (07-07-15)

Stein and Conley have determined that links between neighborhood conditions and crime are more nuanced than previously believed.  Their research indicates that “In previous studies . . .  researchers may have declared that specific neighborhoods are more or less susceptible to crime or opportunities for crime due to conditions in their neighborhood, such as dilapidated buildings, or boarded up houses.  . . . [the new research] research also found neighborhoods contained pockets where generalizations attached to those conditions didn’t apply.

Space Syntax Online Training (07-06-15)

Space syntax is a hot research methodology, but one that can be complicated to learn.  An online space syntax training program is now available free at http://www.spacesyntax.net/online-training-platform/ .  The well-respected team that prepared this training, the Space Syntax Laboratory at The Bartlett, University College London and Space Syntax Limited describe it: “The Space Syntax Online Training Platform introduces the fundamentals of space syntax theory and provides a unified training resource for academics and practiti

More Reasons for Napping Spaces (07-02-15)

Goldschmied and her colleagues have identified a few more reasons to create spaces for naps in places outside the home.  Building on previous research that “has shown that napping can increase positive mood, and improve immune functioning” they determined that after “a brief, midday nap. . . . nappers showed a decrease in self-reported impulsivity and increased tolerance for frustration, while those in the no-nap condition showed the opposite pattern.”  Nap periods were 60 minutes long.

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