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The Mind & The Body

Photo: Cameron Blaylock
Photo: Cameron Blaylock
Photo: Cameron Blaylock
Photo: Cameron Blaylock

Cities are densely layered centers of activity, movement, and sensation—with a physical and sensory richness that provides unique opportunities for community, cultural vitality, and resources that enhance everyday life. Yet this intensity also challenges us to find a balance that offers possibilities for physical and mental escape.

As we think increasingly about the connections between the built environment, perception, and the body in the discussion of urban space, our collective understanding of what it means to enhance life in the city is evolving.

Our set of spring 2014 programs asked: How can we better understand the effects of the city on the mind and body? What does the brain’s response to place—from the congestion of a crowded intersection to the glowing lights of city signage—tell us about the built environment? And what role can the design of cities play in creating a more regenerative and vibrant urban life?

Program partners included ISSUE Project Room, Times Square Arts, and Cloud Lab at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation.


Outside In
May 19th, 2014

What qualities of a place shape us, consciously and unconsciously? This film screening, presented with Times Square Arts, drew on a range of cinematic approaches to examine the links between environment, sensory experience, and well-being.


How Does the Brain Respond to the City?
May 13th, 2014

What grabbed our attention in the congested city? The latest research in neuroscience is revealing fascinating things about human perception and the relationship between what we see and what we experience.


The Imprint of the City
May 9th, 2014

How does the physical and sensory richness of the city shape who we are—for worse or for better? To launch Van Alen Institute’s Spring 2014 Events, the Institute and ISSUE Project Room present a fast-paced medley of music, poetry, personal reflections, conversations, and performances by designers, artists, musicians, writers, social scientists, and others exploring the meaning of well-being, and the effects of the city on our minds and bodies.