Beauty&Brain: It’s in the mind of the beholder
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Beauty&Brain: It’s in the mind of the beholder

Pratic’s fourth study with IULM and the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia

Beauty&Brain: It’s in the mind  of the beholder
By Editorial Staff -

Beauty is that refined mechanism that triggers positive feelings, well-being and pleasure in the human mind, and is directly proportional to an emotional and cognitive coefficient that researchers and psychologists ‒ and today neuroscientists too ‒ have always striven to understand. Therefore, beauty has a brain-based nature and designers should take into account the role the brain plays in the aesthetic perception of places, buildings and objects. Thus, what is designed accenting ‘the aesthetic experience’ of objects, edifices and spaces can positively impact a person's mood, cognitive activity, behaviour and well-being in general.


The Pratic cultural project

Pratic ‒ a leader in Made in Italy sunshades, awnings, gazebos and outdoor spaces ‒ has been committed to ambitious cultural projects for several years now, opening up the design panorama towards new horizons embracing neuroscience, psychology, emotions and cognitive processes.

The first research it commissioned, by the title of Healthy Lighting, looked at the history of primary contrast between light and dark and black and white. Its second edition, Lively Colours, investigated the meaning of colours and their effects on people. The third, Design for Well-being, explored forms, volumes and proportions in terms of cognitive patterns, aesthetic styles and the human brain’s inclinations instilled by millennia-old influences.

The fourth and most recent edition is Beauty&Brain and this confirms that the aesthetic properties of architecture and design condition emotions, cognitive functioning and human choices, since perception of ‘the beautiful’ stems from cerebral activity. Conducted by Stefano Calabrese, narratologist at IULM University of Milan, and Denitza Nedkova, expert in neuroaesthetics at the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia, the research showed that when we perceive something that confirms our expectations, dopamine (also known as ‘the feel-good hormone’) enters the bloodstream and we experience an intense feeling of pleasure, and this pleasure makes what we are perceiving beautiful: it’s a brain-backed virtuous cycle in aesthetics. Pratic applies the results of these studies in designing its own products, so that they respond to living-comfort needs but may also be easily perceived as beautiful, pleasing and reassuring.


The golden ratio: ‘divine perfection’ for design

The golden ratio is an occurrence constantly seen in nature, in that it represents the geometric proportions of multiple lifeforms ‒ a sort of ‘divine perfection’, a combination of symmetries embodied in appealing and beautiful things, and so humankind has always striven to imitate it.

Indoor-outdoor spaces such as terraces, courtyards and gazebos become perfect places to apply the golden ratio for the benefit of residential and contract contexts. Indeed, this ratio enables optimisation of the relationship between covered spaces and the landscape by creating an architecture where the working and living zones extend into the outdoors while safeguarding privacy needs, ensuring practicality and exalting its beauty and visual and living pleasure.


Design as an incubator for emotional and social well-being

If beauty is therefore an inherent part of the way people respond to reality, design can become an incubator for psychological, emotional and social well-being for individuals and the community: the aesthetic properties of architecture ‒ such as ceiling height, openings towards the exterior and curves in interiors ‒ all have an impact on emotions, cognitive functioning, human choices and behaviour. In fact, the structural elements of traditional architecture have always included a great variety of open and semi-open spaces (central courtyards, verandas, pergolas, balconies, winter gardens and so on) to respond to needs in terms of social interaction, privacy and intimacy. Pratic itself has always aimed to accent these by designing outdoor spaces that make the most of every context and generate authentic well-being for the people using them.

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Photography courtesy of Pratic

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