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ARCHITECTURE AND NEUROSCIENCE: Re-signifying public spaces through human experience - B.Arch final thesis
(Author: Evellin Morais / Advisor: Ana Rolim)

Relying on the interface between neuroscience and architecture to better understand how brain stimuli are processed, this research was developed from the understanding of the importance of architectural experiences and how they can provoke such stimuli, influencing human behavior.


The main objective is to propose an architectural intervention on a leftover space – or a non-place – operating as an underpass of an elevated expressway located in the city of ​​Recife, Northeast Region of Brazil. Based on the concept of placemaking, the intention is to discuss how it would be possible to minimize the negative impacts of built environments on the human mind, especially regarding the excessive verticalization of buildings and the low incidence of active ground floors, which have great impact on the quality of public spaces and consequently on people’s physical and psychological well-being.


This is especially relevant if one considers interaction with others as an extremely important aspect of human life. Utilizing neuroscience-based tools that include eye tracking, emotion recognition and a questionnaire applied to users after they experienced the project’s site through a video displaying a 3d rendering of it, the data obtained in these experiments is analyzed and applied to the design phase. As a result, the proposal seeks to respond to the preferences showed by users, in a participative design process that could be to be employed to similar public spaces.

Videos of the tests performed are available by clicking here: eye tracking and emotion recognition.  

Aerial view of proposal: an underpass of an elevated expressway in the city of Recife, Brazil

Site conditions: an expressway in built in the mangrove area in the South of Recife, Brazil

The area of intervention and its neighborhood

The site borders a canal under the expressway which has become a a leftover space: a non-place

The site as a non-place with potential to becoming an active public space for the community

Research structure and main tools used

Applying the concept of placemaking to transform a non-place into an enjoyable public space

The parti gains force by interpreting the local geography and urban morphology

Tools used in participatory design phase: eye tracking, questionnaire and emotion recognition

Testing the users' responses to family of shapes

Ground floor plan: the non-place is activated by introducing interactive spaces with seating, board games, playground, picnic, environmental education and farmers' market

Access from Antonio Falcão Street at South of site

Section AA

View of playground with water fountain at left and canal at right

Section BB

Interactive furniture invite users to enjoy the public space

Section CC

A farmers' market and vegetable gardens are introduced and the canal generates an enjoyable waterfront

Section DD

Section EE

The columns of the elevated expressway become vertical vegetable gardens and the canal waterfront is transformed

A place for gatherings and relaxing

An exhibition space is dedicated to promoting environmental awareness amongst city dwellers

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