Neuro-Architecture: Why humanity should be the epicentre of design

by Gillian Holl

There is a reason why some buildings and interiors make us feel at ease and happy while others affect our mood negatively. It is because there is a part of the human brain that picks up on geometry and how spaces are organised. This, of course, happens unconsciously and that is why we instinctively feel comfortable or uncomfortable in a space. Humans also intuitively have an emotional connection to spaces based on memories, what their senses pick up from the environment etc.

Together, all of these “feelings” have created an architectural discipline that is reshaping the way architects are thinking about design. This discipline is called Neuro-Architecture.

Neuro-Architecture examines the brain’s responses to the built environment, and helps architects design buildings that will have a more positive effect on our mood and senses, and ultimately our wellbeing.

In Neuro-Architecture, technologies such as Virtual Reality and sensors, and science come together to measure a person’s heart rate, body temperature, brain waves, eye movement and “arousal”.

This way architects can build spaces that contribute to the health of their clients on a deeper, more complex level.

“Buildings of the future will be shaped by you”

In his talk entitled Buildings of the future will be shaped by you, American architect Marc Kushner says: “Architecture is not about math, and it’s not about zoning, it is about those visceral, emotional connections that we feel to the places that we occupy.”

Consider for a moment: How much time you spend in and around built environments? At home, the office, shops and schools… Studies have determined that the average human spends around 90% of their time surrounded by buildings.

“We want to live and work in houses, offices and urban areas that are efficiently designed to elevate our mental health towards a happier and more pleasant lifestyle,” says Dr Amirhosein Ghaffarianhoseini, a leading researcher at Auckland University of Technology (AUT).

The built environment has the power to reduce stress and anxiety. And therefore the question architects should be asking isn’t whether or not we should build with humans’ mental state in mind, but rather why on earth we wouldn’t?

What do humans want…

There is no one answer to this as preferences are dependent on many things including age, gender, personality, cultural background etc. What is even more interesting is that our feelings towards exteriors and interiors can change over time.

However, in its most basic, primal form, when it comes to choosing a home, humans are looking for circumstances favourable to their survival.  A place of refuge with the ability to observe their surroundings, located nearby resources (food…water…nature…).

Other common findings…

So far, studies in Neuro-Architecture have made some other interesting discoveries, namely:


  1. Views of nature have the ability to help humans recharge, disconnect and heal on psychological and physiological levels.
  2. Humans are more attracted to symmetric, textured and interesting building facades.
  3. Curvature in buildings is also more favoured whereas pointy, sharp edges create stress.
  4. Square rooms trigger anxiety and feelings of being enclosed.
  5. The use of the colour green reduces heart rates and relieves stress.
  6. The colour red creates positive mental awareness and cognitive stimulation.
  7. Natural light (bright morning and soft warm afternoon light) triggers various positive feelings whereas artificial blue light has the opposite effect.

At Veld Architecture we get excited by innovations like Neuro-Architecture because we are inspired by two things: you and nature.

We are committed to designing “healthy homes” that delight occupants and instil happiness and wonder.

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What is Regenerative Architecture & why should it matter to you?

by Gillian Holl

“Be the change that you wish to see in the world,” – Mahatma Gandhi.

Climate change is the catalyst behind hundreds of thousands of deaths every year across the world. Extreme weather conditions, droughts and natural disasters are wreaking havoc on ecosystems and economies, and costing governments billions. We aren’t trying to be grim. The situation, unfortunately, is already far beyond it. Humanity should be working harder to reduce its carbon emissions and build sustainable relationships with nature. And it all starts with where we live and work.


Because the building, construction and related fields contribute to 23% of the world’s carbon emissions, it is imperative that a paradigm shift and transformation takes place in the way we design and build.


Professor of Experimental Architecture at the Department of Architecture, Planning and Landscape at Newcastle University, Rachel Armstrong, believes that the biggest concern is that buildings are largely based on Victorian technology.  This involves “a one-way transfer of energy from our environment into our homes and cities,” she says. “This is not sustainable. I believe that the only way it is possible for us to construct genuinely sustainable homes and cities is by connecting them to nature, not insulating them from it,” she adds.


However, simply designing sustainable homes and buildings aren’t enough any more. That is why Armstrong and other leaders in the industry have dedicated years of research to various forms of Living and Regenerative Architecture, which will be a far more effective approach over the long-term.

What is Regenerative Architecture?

In a COST (European Cooperation in Science and Technology) research report entitled Sustainability, Restorative to Regenerative the authors explain the three concepts as follows:


  • Sustainability: Limiting impact. The balance point where we give back as much as we take.
  • Restorative: Restoring social and ecological systems to a healthy state.
  • Regenerative: Enabling social and ecological systems to maintain a healthy state and to evolve.


Regenerative Architecture is essentially the holy grail of buildings. A net-zero, living building that not only lives and breathes and adapts to the environment and uses fewer resources but also reverses damage, gives back to communities and sustains all needs onsite.


Regenerative Architecture strategies include:

  • Green roofs and skins
  • The capture and storage of rainwater
  • Wastewater treatment
  • Generating and storing energy
  • Sequestering carbon emissions
  • Obtaining thermal efficiency
  • Creating a suitable habitat for lost wildlife and plants
  • Growing food
  • Increasing biodiversity
  • Addressing pollution
  • A building with no negative health impact on inhabitants
  • The ability to adapt to weather conditions
  • Healing the environment

Why are we telling you this?

The bigger picture of Regenerative Architecture, and the role of biology and biomimicry in architecture are all part of a global movement towards researching and developing ways to grow buildings that seek to integrate and restore the natural environment. Most of these new strategies are only in prototype phase. Armstrong’s research, for example, aims to use microbes to build living buildings that “grow, metabolise and defend us like an immune system.


So why are we telling you this now? Because the change in how buildings are built starts with you. Although many Regenerative Architecture strategies are still in development, some can already be implemented. Buildings can produce fresh oxygen and solar energy, and it is possible for buildings to capture and store rainwater. Forget about the allure of fibre or on-site gyms for a moment. With everything we know about climate change, shouldn’t net-zero, living buildings with the ability to improve our air become the marketing hooks developers use to attract potential home buyers instead?


If you are interested in Regenerative Architecture, team up with the Architects that are excited to see these strategies come to life in the South Africa context.

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Revival of the Industrial Revolution in Architecture

by Gillian Holl

The Industrial Revolution influenced mankind and industry in nearly every possible aspect. In architecture it inspired (and is continually inspiring) new daring and avant-garde outcomes. While the industrial design style was originally thought of as unattractive, a revival of this revolution is reshaping the future of design. But it didn’t happen overnight. We look at the road that brought us here.

A brief history…

Over the years historic moments, trends and leaps in technology influenced and evolved the way architects designed. These gave birth to structural style eras like the Greek, Roman, Romanesque, Gothic and Renaissance periods, to highlight only a few. In the 1700s the revival of past eras became somewhat of a “thing”. Details borrowed from these eras were adapted using modern technologies, which in turn gave rise to styles such as Neo-Renaissance, Neo-Classical and Art Nouveau. The Industrial Revolution towards the end of the 1700s is perhaps one of the most important eras for the architectural industry as a whole. The use of steel, reinforced concrete and bricks revolutionized what could be done. Stronger, higher, longer and more durable buildings, railways and bridges became a possibility.

From ugly eyesores to iconic statement buildings

During the Industrial Revolution the manufacturing industry boomed. Factories popped up in cities fairly quickly with little thought given to their aesthetic appearance. The buildings were built for purpose alone. Large windows. Open ductwork. Rough and unfinished walls. Often considered as ugly eyesores. As technology developed factories needed to be even larger and moved outside cities instead. This left many abandoned warehouses and factories in prime locations. In the late 1960s people started looking at these open-plan buildings with their large windows, worn flooring and aged pipes with more appreciation for the “stories” they told. Artists started using these spaces as studios, residents made it their own and soon the repurposing of these old buildings in new creative ways caught the attention of glamour magazines. Industrial Chic was born.

Industrial residential architecture trends


  • Protagonist of walls: Walls normally play a leading role in interiors but in an industrial scene, walls should be the hero. Walls should be honest and bare, reflecting as much of the original form of the materials used as possible.
  • Bold statements: The great thing about industrial materials is that their imperfect, bold features complement and add contrast to many other styles of design. The combination of clean lines, polished surfaces and bold features is setting the pace for new residential builds. For example, in using various complementary floor textures, one can subtly divide an open-plan.
  • Exposed Services: Exposing elements such as pipes and other services is perhaps the most obvious industrial trend but it is also practical, cost-effective and aesthetically interesting.
  • Pop of colour: While the rustic colours of this revival is key, it is also about getting the contrast of materials right. Iron, wood, aluminium and recycled plastic all contribute toward the success of this trend. And by including a pop of colour where it matters most, well, the result speaks for itself!


The revival of the Industrial Revolution is not only influencing residential architecture, but also industrial buildings. Here Architects embark on a quest to design greener more sustainable warehouses and factories. The Marmelo Mill in Portugal designed by Ricardo Bak Gordon is an exciting example of this.

Looking ahead…

The first (steel), second (electricity) and third (IT) industrial revolutions each had a significant impact on Architecture and the way Architects work. The fourth industrial revolution is set to transform this field by leaps and bounds. Advances in technology and an improved interaction between the physical and digital worlds can help Architects streamline processes, encourage improved collaboration, and ultimately lead to improved decision-making. While Virtual Reality software in Architecture is just the beginning, it is exciting to think what the future may hold!


At Veld Architects, it is our motto to design bespoke, residential homes that resonate with our clients, nature and the Veld Lifestyle. Technology, sustainability and the innovative use of architectural design styles are continually driving us forward.

View our projects to see how the Industrial Revival is inspiring us.

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Veld Architects’ Top Architecture Trends to Look Out for in 2020

by Gillian Holl

In architecture, blindly following trends would be counter-intuitive. There are so many variables that can (and should) affect the overall outcome of a design. At Veld Architects we realise that ideas become trends due to human appreciation and this is, of course, a voice we listen to sincerely. We, therefore, highlight our favourite architectural trends that resonate most with our core beliefs and what we are about.

Sustainable Architecture

The global wave towards building greener more eco-friendly buildings is something that is catching on in South Africa, thankfully. While we are still in infancy (compared to Europe) more architects are showing homeowners what can be done. Adaptive reuse of old buildings, proper insulation, rainwater collection, green roofs, building using recycled and/or local materials and conserving the natural environment of your build are all excellent examples of how sustainable architecture can influence the South African market, but they are only the beginning. We highlight some of our favourite trends globally.

Net Zero Homes

The European Commission will soon lay out its plans for a European Green Deal in order to get the EU to net-zero carbon emission-status by 2050. People renovating homes and buildings into Net Zero structures will be one of the flagships in the policy. A net-zero building is a building that creates the same amount of renewable energy on-site per annum as it uses during the same period. Imagine for a moment how successful a similar strategy (even on a small scale) could be in SA

Smart technology 

The road to net-zero homes is paved with smart technology like Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Virtual Reality (VR). Energy modelling, for example, can indicate the best possible sites for green buildings. Technology can also help architects utilise natural energy (i.e.passive solar heating) more effectively and design more smartly in general.

Micro-Homes and modular living

Made popular by George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces, micro-homes and modular designs are popping up in urban areas across the world. This movement is as ideal for over-populated city centres as it is in the great outdoors. Smaller, sustainable builds could lower the building’s environmental impact if designed and built accordingly.

Adaptable Architecture


In line with the Bauhaus Principle where form follows function, we at Veld Architects are particularly fascinated by adaptable architecture. Modern society has drastically evolved from what was functional in the 70s and 80s. It is exciting to see this evolution affect the overall design of a home. Multi-functional, wall-less open-plan spaces are not only making it easier for rooms to flow into each other seamlessly but it also creates new, “border-less” potential for rooms. The use of dividers, glass curtains, and sliding/roll-up doors can also enhance the transition between inside and outside spaces.

Businesses are also benefiting from this trend because a smart open-plan office layout office encourages a collaborative working environment.

 Biophilic Architecture

For years we’ve been told “you are what you eat”. Based on biologist E.O. Wilson’s theory that humans have a genetic dependence on the natural world in order to be happy and healthy,  biophilia in a sense, suggest amending the statement to: “you are what your senses experience”.


Biophilic architecture looks at the health and wellness of home dwellers and uses architecture to bring humans closer to nature. Either physically, by building a home in the outdoors with an open balcony, terrace, patio and large windows overlooking the landscape, or alternatively, by bringing nature to a home with living walls, water features, ample natural lighting and ventilation.


Our bespoke Veld homes address current trends while allowing for the natural landscapes and South African context to inspire new ones.

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Virtual Reality for architecture: Here to stay!

By Gillian Holl

Technological trends come and go. In architecture we’ve seen many new, innovative software solutions get replaced by the next, more advanced programme, and so on and so forth. And as we move closer to the Fourth Industrial Revolution and digital transformation, we will see even more of this. However, some technologies are undoubtedly here to stay. Like Virtual Reality.

In our field, Virtual Reality technology has evolved dramatically and will soon become an integral part of the designing and building processes of properties around the world. Virtual Reality allows people to engage multiple senses in an unrestricted 3D space. It has revolutionised the automotive, tourism, gaming and hospitality industries, and it has only just begun to pick at the surface of what it can mean for architects, their customers and collaborators.


Earlier this year, our team at Veld Architects started adopting the HTC Vive VR technology.

We’ve found that clients don’t always fully understand the conventional set of drawings they see in front of them. And these visualisation restrictions are often one of the largest hurdles we as architects have when it comes to communicating any new and innovative ideas to our clients. They like what they are being told, but they simply can’t envision it.

…when it comes to communicating any new and innovative ideas to our clients. They like what they are being told, but they simply can’t envision it.

VR technology is such a breath of fresh air for us and our clients. It completely transforms our ideas on paper  into an in-depth, 3D space. Our clients are able to experience every room of the house and get a better understanding of how various factors like natural light at different intervals, for example, will influence every space.

As a firm that specialises in one of a kind, exclusive contemporary residences we immediately saw the value this type of technology could unlock for us as a firm and our clients.

…visualising changes to a design as we make them.

Many software solutions are able to integrate with a range of BIM software in real-time, which allows us to:

  • better test new and innovative ideas on-scale;
  • design in real-time – visualising changes to a design as we make them;
  • effectively communicate these and other ideas to our clients visually;
  • improve feedback;
  • identify and solve potential problems quickly and efficiently; and
  • better adapt time and material consumption to suit our clients needs.


The different stages at which a development can be visualised i.e. an undeveloped countryside vs. the completed building in its entirety are mind-blowing. We are incredibly excited about the future of VR.


Want to use this technology on a leading-edge residence you are planning?

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