Built Beautiful: A New Documentary on Architecture and Neuroscience

Recently, we have been able to watch the upcoming documentary Built Beautiful, directed by Mariel Rodriguez-McGill. Screened at the Denver Film Festival 2020, it tells a story of a paradigm change, brought to architecture by recent developments in science.

Architect, researcher and educator Tiziana Proietti, featured in the film. Picture: Built Beautiful

However, as the audience soon learns, neuroscience is not the first field to look into the relationship between humans and their built environment. During the 20th century, psychologists have also been researching this important topic. Architecture, though, seemed largely unmoved by the previous developments. 

With the impact our environments have on us, and more evidence to support it by the day, it’s now the time to steer it on the path towards human flourishing. This is the message the film’s authors want to convey.

To do this, they reach for support of many known experts bridging people and architecture in their work. In the different interviews we can hear, for example, from researchers Colin Ellard, Anjan Chatterjee or Meredith Banasiak. Included are also architects who are already working with scientific knowledge about humans, such as Tiziana Proietti, Donald H. Ruggles and Hans Butzer. Nikos Salingaros, known mathematician and architectural theorist working with architect Christopher Alexander also makes an appearance.

Throughout Built Beautiful, the audience is presented with many fundamental topics, such as prospect and refuge, biophilia, fractal patterns, as well as new biometric research methods which are being used in measuring the reactions of human bodies to their surroundings. 

Defence and National Rehabilitation Center by John Simpson Architects. Picture: Built Beautiful

However, it’s not only a mere presentation of concepts. A strong, overarching theme of beauty (which has all but disappeared from the architects’ language) and human emotions connects the individual threads, saying: “Humans are feeling creatures. We design for them.”

When the film becomes available, we recommend it to anyone curious about the impact of the built environment on people. Architects, urban designers, city administrators and social scientists will all benefit from the well-rounded introduction to not only a growing volume of knowledge, but also a movement which is gaining momentum and will transform the design of places where we spend almost all our lives.

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