Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Neuroscience, Transportation and Zeisel's Inquiry by Design

Zeisel’s Inquiry by Design proposes research methods from a process-oriented design perspective. The book provides well-organized research methods and case studies as examples. Zeisel’s methods focus on the intended users of the space. He examines the operations of the inhabitants, and how they are impacted socially, physically and neurologically within space.

Zeisel acknowledges the barriers when trying to design for the real users. Often architects deal with the client at a high-level, not necessarily those that use the space day-to-day. The architect must walk a fine line providing the best services to the client yet designing a space that is functional and user-friendly for the actual inhabitants. This concept can be seen easily in the transportation realm, where pedestrians and cyclists are often not consulted or considered in the design of streets. Therefore, in the final design, the roadway is built for a single-user i.e. the motorist.

An Inquiry by Design is a rare book that blends design with cognitive studies, specifically examining how we impacted by our built environment. A new wave of designers and scientists are blending neuroscience and architecture; however, few seem interested in applying these techniques to the transportation realm. If the design of our environment links to our subconscious, a new area of research could examine how to entice people to walk and bike from a neurological perspective. We have the potential to monitor brain activity in conjunction with changes in the urban environment and therefore could examine the direct impacts on humans – while eliminating the biases from observation or survey methods.