Curves and the brain in architecture

People view buildings that feature curves as being more beautiful than linear buildings, and this is due to how the brain works.

The striking feature of the Guggenheim Museums in New York and Spain are their imposing curves and this is why they are judged to be beautiful. The Sydney Opera House has been identified as one of the twentieth century’s most distinct buildings due to its striking curve design.

The science of the brain

Researchers at the University of Toronto showed subjects 200 images of rooms. Some of them were linear in design, and others featured curves. People judged the curved rooms to be more appealing.

Whilst subjects were looking at the pictures, their brain activity was monitored. When viewing curved rooms, the area of the brain called the anterior cingulate cortex was more active. This part of the brain is associated with emotion.

In another study by Harvard Medical School, researchers found that looking at sharp objects activated the amygdala portion of the brain that is associated with fear. This is not surprising as sharp objects signify physical danger and threat.

Softer objects with curves make people feel safer.

Not everyone chooses curves

Although science leads us to believe that curves are always preferable to linear, this is not always the case. Consider the New York Skyline, or contemporary Swedish furniture, which are basically linear yet they invoke a positive response.

Most modern houses are boxed shaped with sloping triangular roofs, with hardly a curve in sight, except for perhaps a bay window. Yet, most homeowners are happy with how their home looks.

The reasons for this could be that when it comes to judging items solely by function, linear forms are acceptable, with curves being associated with more artistic aspects.

Posted by Matt Hughes
August 6, 2015

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