Architect, designer and artist Suchi Reddy would like to move discussions about design beyond the realm of style.
Not that there’s anything wrong with style. But design is so much more — so much more fundamental to the human experience, says Reddy, the founder of Reddymade, a New York-based architecture and design firm. Reddy will give the keynote address at the inaugural Design, Art & Science Symposium on Friday, Oct. 13. The symposium is from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at The Loft in Congdon Yards in High Point. Reddy’s keynote, “Form Follows Feeling: Neuroaesthetics in Interior Design,” will begin at 9:15 a.m.
The title of her talk is drawn from Reddy’s “form follows feeling” mantra — a twist on the design adage that form follows function and an edict closely tied to her firm’s focus on neuroaesthetics.
Neuroaesthetics, Reddy says, is a relatively new, translational field that considers how environments and aesthetic experiences affect the brain and body. It’s a concept that has long fascinated her, even before she knew the field existed.
“My interest has always been in how a space makes you feel, and this was from a very early age. I think I must have been around 10 years old when I first felt like my house was affecting me, and that led me to architecture,” Reddy says. “… About 10 years ago, I was in New York, in a cab, and I heard something on the radio about neuroscience and architecture. And I couldn’t wait to get home and do the research about it.”
That research led her to the Academy of Neuroscience for Architecture and helped to give her a framework for “two giant passions” — architecture and science. “I was incredibly interested to see how these fields were coming together because I felt that architecture should always be on the cutting edge. Design needs to be on the cutting edge,” she says.
Neuroaesthetics in practice
Neuroaesthetics underpins all the projects Reddy and her firm undertake, from ground-up builds to high-end residential interior designs to commercial and hospitality spaces to large-scale public art.
“With everything that we do, I want to reorient the decisions that we’re making toward the kind of experience that those decisions generate,” she says. “… (Design needs) to be thought of in terms of what the human experience is versus how something might look. We start from there and then we layer in all the other elements that make up the space, whether it’s color, lighting, texture, furniture, decorative accessories.”
By incorporating neuroaesthetic concepts and strategies into their projects, Reddy says, interior designers, manufacturers, retailers and others can approach their work more thoughtfully, “in a way that resonates more deeply with them and their clients.”
As an example, Reddy says, if she’s designing a workspace, she’ll consider not just the scale of the room and furniture placement but also will think through how someone’s mind might wander while tackling a problem. She would want to give that person an interesting window view or piece of art to look at, or space for them to move while they think.
Another example: In a project designed to reduce the stress of health care workers, the Reddymade team incorporated elements of biophilia and even play.
“When we did the retail store for Google, which was their very first retail store, the idea was to really create a space where you can experience technology, but as a place of wonder and exploration,” she says. “Instead of a cold, stark space, we wanted a space that made people feel aspirational.”
For Reddy, one of the appeals of neuroaesthetics is how it brings together different fields: neuroscience and design.
“We try to be as exploratory as possible in the practice because I think, otherwise, we have stagnation,” she says. “Even before I started working on neuroaesthetics, I would be cross-pollinating ideas from residential projects into commercial and hospitality and vice versa. That kind of hybrid thinking has always been core to how I operate. … The world is a very complex place, and we cannot be looking at any problem from a single perspective.”
Cross-pollination helps Reddy and her team as they tackle a staggeringly wide variety of projects. When Decor News Now asked her to talk a little about a favorite current project, she first mentioned a ground-up build Reddymade is doing in Upstate New York.
“I’m very excited by it because the landscape is extremely interesting, and it’s very beautiful to be able to relate to it,” she says.
“The other thing I would say I’m extremely interested in right now is a research project we’ve been working on looking at designing for neurodivergence and the neurodivergent population,” she says. “About 20% of the population identifies as (having) some sort of neurodivergence, so I think that’s really important to think about.” She expects to release the results of that research sometime next year.
More on the symposium
The Design, Art & Science Symposium is an outgrowth of Science in Design, co-founded by Mike Peterson and Linda Kafka. The daylong, CEU-accredited symposium will cover neuroaesthetics, cognitive architecture, biophilia and the evolutionary imperative for beauty, among other topics. The daylong event is intended for interior designers, architects, product manufacturers, retailers, design students and others who work in the residential and commercial design sectors. For more information, click here.