Neuroscience research on contemplation usually considers only internally induced (self-directed) methods for attaining mindfulness (e.g., meditation, prayer). We explored other “external methods” for cultivating mindfulness, focusing on architecture that we design and inhabit. Our study evaluated if buildings designed for contemplation would elicit brain activation patterns similar to those found under contemplation. We used a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to examine 12 architects viewing images of ordinary buildings (“control”) versus contemplation-inducing (“experiment”) edifices. Briefly, we found that: (1) markedly distinct activations occurred when subjects experienced ordinary vs. contemplation-inducing architecture; (2) areas activated by contemplative buildings overlapped with areas activated in meditators during meditation; (3) significant correlations among subject reported anxiety, depth of experience, and brain physiology were observed; and (4) architecturally induced contemplation is an aesthetic state activating neural regions of sensory integration, noncriticality, and embodiment. Our study demonstrated that specially designed buildings could induce phenomenologies similar to those under internally induced contemplation.

Julio Bermudez

The Catholic University of America


David Lipschitz

University of Utah


Yoshio Nakamura, PhD

University of Utah School of Medicine

Planning Committee Member