The intersection of architecture and neuroscience can tell us a lot about how we perceive, imagine, interpret, and respond to buildings, reinforcing the Winston Churchill quote that architect Steven Holl, FAIA, referred to in his keynote talk: “We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us.” How that shaping occurs, in both directions, remains the question.

The back-to-back talks of Holl and Kandel, a Nobel Prize-winning neuropsychiatrist who, like Holl, is a Columbia University faculty member, demonstrated the evocative power of bringing these two disciplines together. Holl displayed one of his elegant watercolors, in which he depicted the human body as an island in a sea called the environment, with the brain drawn as a structure on the island, and the mind as an area within that structure. He went on to describe his architecture as the interaction of mind and body, pursued by moving from concepts to phenomena across what Einstein called “the unbridgeable gap between thought and feeling.”

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