The Science of Architecture: How Does Design Affect Our Emotions?

It’s tempting to see things exclusively in terms of their function while we’re inside a structure, whether it’s a science lab, library, or the office where we work from 9 to 5. The interior of any building’s four walls might often appear to take center stage as the most significant part of a design. In this perspective, the architectural merits of a structure frequently pale in comparison.

After all, we’re always reminded that what matters is what’s on the inside. In practice, this may be true, but it’s crucial to remember that architecture is frequently designed with the people who live inside in mind. It may affect and influence our emotions and perceptions through variables like space, light, and geometry, all the way down to the materials utilized in its creation. Scientific research has demonstrated that particular cells in our brain’s hippocampus area attune themselves to the places and environments we live, and this isn’t just an instinctual sensation.

The height of the ceiling

You may not have given the height of a room’s ceiling much thought, but the distance between a person and the room’s highest point can have a significant impact on their thoughts and actions. Higher ceilings, such as those found in art studios, may encourage free, abstract ideas, whereas lower ceilings encourage a more precise, concentrated perspective. It makes sense from a design standpoint to have lower ceilings in places like operating rooms where things require the utmost attention.

Views of the building

Take a look out the window of your lab, office, or neighborhood library. What you see on the exterior can have a big impact on how easily you become distracted. If you’re surrounded by lush vegetation like fields, trees, and bushes, you’ll have a higher chance of concentrating on the task at hand, whether it’s completing lab work or reading a nice book. Views of natural environments, rather than being a distraction, have been found in studies to actually improve a person’s focus.

It has been suggested that if the facility is placed in a more metropolitan area, where nature is comparably scarce, these busy environs can be far too distracting to keep concentrated.


Even something as simple as a building’s interior color can influence our mood and perceptions. Consider the design decisions made at a restaurant. Warm colors cast in gentle light are used in places that want you to stay and enjoy yourself at a slow pace. In contrast, a restaurant where you’ll be rushed would use intense lighting to persuade you to leave.

As a result, the color scheme might evoke a specific mood or emotion. Blues and white evoke emotions of serenity and quiet, while orange is exciting and energizing, and green accents can aid to relieve stress.


Similarly, the way a building is lighted affects our feelings and emotions; bright lights, for example, amplify both happy and negative emotions. Take into account the lighting’s color. Blue tinges can help us feel more energized and attentive, allowing us to execute things more quickly and precisely, even after the color has faded.

Meanwhile, natural illumination has additional advantages. Laboratories and workplaces with windows have been found to have a more favorable impact on workers’ sense of well-being than those without. Natural light can boost our desire to exercise more, improve our sleep quality, and help us understand our body’s natural circadian cycles, which tell us when to feel awake and energetic in the morning and when to wind down in the evening.

Even lighting placement and direction can help to produce an atmosphere or feeling. Lighting placed above the eye level provides a more formal ambiance, but lighting placed below the eye level reduces formality and emphasizes individual importance. A higher level of lighting, accentuated by darker sections free of light, invites solitude and intimacy, whereas a lower level of lighting, accented by darker parts free of light, emphasizes the vastness of a building.


The exterior of a structure can also influence emotional responses. Even at the most basic level, the appearance of a building can have a psychological impact; if something looks wonderful, it is likely to make us pleased. A poorly built building, on the other hand, will have the opposite impact. It can, however, go far further. A complicated façade is likely to be appreciated, yet a monotonous façade might be very destructive to some.

A skyscraper or a block of apartments, for example, could be intimidating and featureless, causing worry. At least, that’s what environmental psychologist Colin Ellard discovered after researching this fascinating quirk. Commuters were observed hurrying past areas dominated by monolithic, austere structures. The cumulative consequences of being around structures like these, especially for individuals who live in close proximity, can be quite harmful. Stress and impulsive, dangerous behavior can be induced by oppressively drab settings.

By comparison, something more engaging, with a sleeker, more attractive appearance, can have a more positive effect on our mood.


The interior of a building should be designed in such a way that it maximizes space. Rather than designing something that tells people how to feel, it will be flexible enough that they can experience and explore it for themselves.

To this end, a design must take into account the wide range of tasks that people must perform at work. Having a variety of spaces, including places for group or solo work, allows for better working conditions and a more positive working environment. Designers and architects must strike a balance between form and function, which can be difficult to do in the absence of actual prototypes, and finances and rules can further constrain design.

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