Knoll Works 2021


Susan Magsamen on
Space & Wellbeing

Is neuroaesthetics a science or is it an art?

Yes. It’s both. Neuroaesthetics is how your body and brain change based on art and aesthetic experiences. It’s the science that is helping to change the way we use this new knowledge in practice.

How do science and art affect the study of neuroaesthetics?

Artists have always known that color changes us, that shapes change us, that light changes us, but what we haven’t understood is why. If we understand how and why, we can create better models and better approaches to solving some of the most intractable problems of the world.

Can materials, colors and shapes promote inclusion in your spaces and bring people together in work and enhance processes?

Culture plays a huge role in how we perceive color and how it affects us emotionally. You can use different combinations of color to bring people together, and they can be used for social cohesion and a sense of belonging whether it’s symbolically, culturally or whether you’re thinking about it from a biological point of view.

Do you think that our relationship to space might change given the amount of time we spend at home now?

What I am seeing is more thought about what kinds of states of mind we need to have in order to reach our full potential, regardless of what we’re doing, and how do we create those in hyper-local ways within spaces. By that I mean, we have this real need to find ways to take a break and restore ourselves, often in the same space where school, work and the messiness of life are happening.

What tools can we use to make the spaces we live in now feel different depending on the activity?

It’s thinking about how to use lighting to focus or relax, thinking about the textures of blankets and linens to make us feel a sense of security and safety. Thinking deeply about the tools of your sensory systems and how we can bring them to bear will lead you to color, light, texture, shape.

Susan Magsamen is Founder and Executive Director of the International Arts + Mind Lab, Johns Hopkins University.

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