As I continue to learn about neuroscience, I am excited about how my role as an architect can contribute to well-being. Movement, one of the WELL concepts is an important feature that connects neuroscience and architecture – and by providing design that incorporates the physical movement through space, the brain can be activated in the area where memory is affected. There is evidence that certain neurons in the hippocampus part of the brain respond strongly when people are in certain places. These are called Place cells and collections of these cells can be considered to be mental maps. The right side of the hippocampus is oriented toward special aspects whereas the left side is associated with context information.  There is evidence that building mental maps by physically experiencing pathways through movement (walking, biking, driving or other means) can increase the volume of one’s hippocampus – keeping memory strong.

Who doesn’t like a bigger brain?

Let’s face it, buildings may just sit there – but we need to move into, out of and through them all the time.  Creating pathways within the architecture that are animated and interesting is key to good design.  Making the experience of ascending a set of stairs pleasurable may well lead to finding a reason to go back upstairs.  This movement activates the body and the brain.  Providing beacons of interest – a window with a view, a niche for a piece of artwork or a surprise reveal of nature after one has crossed an interesting threshold contributes to animating the experience.

Repeating the simple act of getting up, stopping for a moment in a fabulous bathroom and then going down a majestic set of stairs en-route to the coffee in a kitchen filled with beautiful morning light can be one of the ways to get your neurons in your hippocampus firing – storing mental maps.






If, by chance, the experiential path through the architecture triggers a pleasant memory either by the way the body must move through or by the aesthetic nature of the space, the architecture plays a role in delight.

As far as WELL is concerned, the Movement concept has more to do with the promotion of physical activity such as providing home gyms, outdoor spaces for exercise, having a beautiful stair near the elevator in an office building for example. These are valid intentions however, I prefer to focus on why moving through space is important to your mental health as well.