Who do Neuroarchitects Work for?​

Updated: May 20

By Andréa de Paiva and Fabio Menezes

It might seem a simple question, but it raises some relevant issues: who do neuroarchitects work for? We must always keep in mind that the neuroarchitect is someone with a deep knowledge of neuroscience and behavior who applies NeuroArchitecture. But who should he/she listen to? Are the client’s demands always lined up with needs of the people who will use the spaces? What is the role of ethics on it?

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NeuroArchitecture is a science that involves dealing with emotions and behaviors, which are often beyond conscious perception. The built architecture can be designed in a way to stimulate specific behaviors on the people who make use of the space, without them noticing any changes on their behavior or which properties were responsible for the changes. Therefore, when we discuss NeuroArchitecture, it is fundamental to consider its ethical aspects.

Often the client who owns the building and contracts the architect is not the final user, like in a school that the owner will not be the student using the space. Such cases are, in general, the ones that require more attention from the architects because there might be conflicting interests. The client who hires the project may have intentions that are directly related to monetary profits obtained due to specific behavior the space can incite on its users. However, such behaviors might not necessarily be lined up with the users’ concerns or desires. In more extreme cases, it can even have a negative impact on the wellbeing of users.

This is not entirely new for architects. Similar issues have been presented before: the dilemma of deciding between designing for the client or for the final user. And that issue intensifies the more conflicting the interests are [1]. But with NeuroArchitecture it can get even more complicated. The space can be used to stimulate behaviors unconsciously, without individuals noticing its influences. This is why ethical principles must always be on the basis of NeuroArchitecture.

The wellbeing of all the users of space must be taken into consideration when applying NeuroArchitecture. A building that was badly designed can cause several negative consequences, impacting directly on the user wellbeing, health and relationships [2]. To avoid such risks it is important to always consider the purpose of the designed space, its function, who will use it and for how long. Therefore, the architect must always question himself about who are the people who will be affected by his design and how his design can affect wellbeing.

To sum up, who do neuroarchitects work for? The professionals who want to design in an ethical way must contemplate not only the client’s demands (who also need to be oriented about any ethical issues involved in the project), but also those of the people who will use the space. That is why it is important to make a deep study encompassing all the variables on each project, like the client, the function of the space, the people who will occupy it, the time they will spend there and the tasks that will be executed on each place. The great challenge to all neuroarchitects is to make use of neuroscience applied to architecture in an ethical way, ALWAYS seeking the physical and psychological wellbeing of the users of their spaces.

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Fabio Menezes dos Anjos, this article's invited co-author, is a psychoanalyst, has a masters degree in clinical psychology at the University of São Paulo, has had a clinical practice for the last 8 years and has experience in the fields of social work (NGOs), rehabilitation, sport psychology, among others. His main research focus are the areas of sport, society and discourses.


[1] IVORY, C. (2004) Client, User and Architect Interactions in Construction: Implications for Analysing Innovative Outcomes from User-Producer Interactions in Projects. Journal Technology Analysis & Strategic Management Volume 16, 2004 - Issue 4. Pages 495-508.

[2] PAIVA. A. (2018) Neuroscience for Architecture: How Building Design Can Influence Behaviors and Performance. Journal of Civil Engineering and Architecture, Volume 12, Number 2, February 2018 (Serial Number 123) Pages: 132-138

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