Designing for the Subliminal Brain: Architecture & the 21st Century Paradigm Shift

with Ann Sussman
1 AIA CES Learning Unit|HSW

How do buildings make people feel? How do they influence behavior? This talk reviews new findings in neuroscience and psychology and new technologies that can help us better understand architecture’s impact on people. It discusses biometric tools, including eye tracking, which follow our conscious and subliminal (or unconscious) eye movement, to explain how the architectural experience happens. The talk reveals how new research shows human evolution presets our response to key patterns and shapes more than most realize. The findings, in turn, help us understand why traditional architecture fits our evolutionary predispositions while 20th-century, modern architecture, which developed post-WWI, does so to a much lesser degree.

Ann Sussman, RA, an architect, author and researcher, is passionate about understanding how people experience buildings emotionally. Her book, Cognitive Architecture, Designing for How We respond to the Built Environment (Routledge, 2015) co-authored with Justin B. Hollander, won the 2016 Place Research Award from the Environmental Design Research Association (EDRA). A 2nd edition, featuring 40 color images of eye-tracked architecture, came out in July (2021). Ann teaches a course on the human perception of buildings, called Architecture&Cognition, at the Boston Architectural College (BAC). She serves as President of the educational and research non-profit, the Human Architecture and Planning Institute, Inc. ( based in Concord, MA.

This course will enable participants to:

1. Explain the importance of the human 'unconscious' in our perception of architecture.

2. See how biometric modeling, including eye tracking, can be used as a tool to assess design.

3. Demonstrate the extent the human brain is oriented to visual processing, geared to take in faces both human and inanimate, and why this matters.

4. Understand that 'reality' is a construct between eye & brain and how traditional architecture is an external representation of hidden internal brain design.

Please click here for additional AIA Continuing Education Provider Information:

Instructional Delivery Method: Live Online Learning Program

Program Level: Introductory

AIA CES Program Approval Expiration Date: June 2, 2024

Provider Number: G193

Provider Statement: The Institute of Classical Architecture & Art is a registered provider of AIA-approved continuing education under Provider Number G193. All registered AIA CES Providers must comply with the AIA Standards for Continuing Education Programs. Any questions or concerns about this provider or this learning program may be sent to AIA CES ([email protected] or (800) AIA 3837, Option 3).

This learning program is registered with AIA CES for continuing professional education. As such, it does not include content that may be deemed or construed to be an approval or endorsement by the AIA of any material of construction or any method or manner of handling, using, distributing, or dealing in any material or product.

AIA continuing education credit has been reviewed and approved by AIA CES. Learners must complete the entire learning program to receive continuing education credit. AIA continuing education Learning Units earned upon completion of this course will be reported to AIA CES for AIA members. Certificates of Completion for both AIA members and non-AIA members are available upon request.


This course will be offered on December 3, 2021 as part of the Health, Safety, and Welfare in Traditional Design day. Course registration is available on the program page here.