The built environment and its impact on our brains
Before the work of Nobel-prize-winning neuroscientist 
Fred Gage, it was thought that humans were born with all the brain cells they would ever have. Fred Gage challenged this belief, and in 1998 discovered that human brains continue to grow new nerve cells throughout life. 

This research is particularly true for the area of the brain called the hippocampus – the memory and learning centre of the brain. This process, known as ‘neurogenesis’, means that as adults we are able to add new memories and learn new skills. How quickly new nerve cells are generated seems directly influenced by the richness of our 
interactions with our environment.

This discovery can be applied to architecture, with the creation of sensory spaces that stimulate brain responses. This intersection between our brains and our built environment is an expanding area of research and particularly challenges our workspace designs of the past 100 years.

Celebrating architectural ideas that enhance 
human interaction

In recognition of the importance of architectural ideas that enhance human interaction with the built environment, we saw the 2013 Pritzker Prize for architecture, regarded by many as the highest achievement in architecture, awarded to Japanese architect Toyo Ito.

Toyo Ito is acclaimed for combining conceptual innovation with superbly executed buildings. The Pritzker jury citation stated in its reasons for awarding the 2013 Pritzker Prize: “[Toyo Ito’s] architecture projects an air of optimism, lightness and joy, and is infused with both a sense of uniqueness and universality … [H]is synthesis of structure, space and form … creates inviting places … his designs [are infused] with a spiritual dimension and … poetics that transcend all his works.”

The ‘Fugitive Structures’ architectural project at the 
Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation (SCAF) in Sydney uses the work of architects from Australia, the Asia-Pacific and the Middle East to explore a hybrid world between architecture and art.

The project involves a series of fugitive structures – each 
a small-scale pavilion to be built within the Zen garden 
of the SCAF. The pavilions are ‘fugitive’ because they are fleeting – each intended to be enjoyed for only a short period of time before making way for the next structure. The inaugural pavilion titled Crescent House by Andrew Burns is open to the public at SCAF until September 2013.

The ‘Fugitive Structures’ exhibition takes architectural ideas and puts them into the context of art, challenging us to consider these ideas outside the physical structure or confines of a utilitarian context. The ideas being explored by this project also apply to architecture in a utilitarian context.

From fugitive to fixture

The creative exploration of architectural ideas is similar 
to other creative endeavours in that the subject of the creativity can remain hidden or fleeting unless constrained by structure.

Designing and building a physical structure gives tangibility to the architectural ideas being explored.
In a similar fashion, intellectual property (IP) laws assist to give permanent, tangible form to otherwise fleeting or ephemeral concepts.

The structural IP elements

While most laws are concerned with constraining be-haviour, IP laws are concerned with rewarding difference.

For example:

•  a work enjoys copyright protection only if it is original
•  a trade mark can be registered only if it is distinctive
•  an invention can be patented only if it is new and inventive.

Unless this threshold of ‘difference’ (in whatever form) is met, there is no IP protection. In this way, innovation through difference is rewarded.

Taking an architectural analogy, IP laws provide structure for capturing fugitive concepts and transforming fleeting concepts into something tangible. 

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Water hog

Water hog

The Rainwater HOG, a modular rain tank from architect and award-winning designer Sally Dominguez, has been making waves internationally of late. It has just won in the San Francisco-based SparkAwards, for starters.

James Dyson

James Dyson

It took over 5,000 prototypes and close to fifteen years of controversy, ridicule and rejection, with the occasional success, but the very first Dyson vacuum cleaner was finally released in the UK in 1993.


Mudder of invention

In 2012, Tough Mudder had gone global, with 35 events and half a million participants, but it wanted fresh ideas and innovation for new obstacle design.

A golden future

A golden future

India is poised to become the fifth largest consumer in the world by 2025 (from the twelfth today). This expansion is set to see an enormous retail boom, bringing with it a shift in product design on a global scale to accommodate this complex and diverse burgeoning market. One such change is an infusion of colour to match the uniquely vibrant essence of India.