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Embodied Experiences

Prof. Dr. rer. nat. Dr. med. habil. Gerald Hüther

HENN Akademie, January 24, 2008 

Anyone who designs and constructs architectural works always conveys specific ideas, which he has gained from experience. However, at the same time, architecture also creates a world that influences possible human experiences and the perceptions developed from these. In architecture as in research, it is sometimes important to go beyond the old perceptions. This may be successful above all, if different background experiences are exchanged and if we are able to be open-minded and break free from narrow thought patterns.

One condition of this is that we make correct use of our brain. We are responsible for our own brain. It is a matter of enabling ourselves and others to experience moments of openness, unbiased perception and the playful handling of respective potentials.

In brain research we have been experiencing for quite some time, the transition from a linear to a dynamic model, i.e. from the perception of irreversible processes of maturing and decay to a consideration of the conditions of use by which the switching patterns in the brain remained influenced throughout the person’s life. This brain plasticity brings with it great responsibility in terms of educating and, generally, for organizing the conditions of our life and work.

Because emotion and cognition are always equally involved in the experiences which become imprinted in our brain, we are no longer able subsequently to reach the inner attitudes and approaches created by these experiences through cognition alone. What human beings should do in order to change and to develop different attitudes and approaches, is to have new experiences. However, we cannot force people to do this; we can invite, encourage and perhaps even inspire them. If architecture can achieve this, then not only the attitude of humans will change, but so too will their brains.

Prof. Dr. rer. nat. Dr. med. habil. Gerald Hüther is a professor of neurobiology and heads the Centre for Neurobiological Prevention Research at the Psychiatric Hospital of the University of Göttingen and of the Institute of Public Health at the University of Mannheim/Heidelberg. His scientific work is concerned with the influence of early experiences on brain development, with the effects of anxiety and stress and the importance of emotional reactions.

Gerald Hüther
Prof. Dr. rer. nat. Dr. med. habil.