The enactive approach to architectural experience: A neurophysiological perspective on embodiment, motivation, and affordances

Andrea Jelić, Gaetano Tieri, Federico De Matteis, Fabio Babiloni, Giovanni Vecchiato

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Over the last few years, the efforts to reveal through neuroscientific lens the relations between the mind, body, and built environment have set a promising direction of using neuroscience for architecture. However, little has been achieved thus far in developing a systematic account that could be employed for interpreting current results and providing a consistent framework for subsequent scientific experimentation. In this context, the enactive perspective is proposed as a guide to studying architectural experience for two key reasons. Firstly, the enactive approach is specifically selected for its capacity to account for the profound connectedness of the organism and the world in an active and dynamic relationship, which is primarily shaped by the features of the body. Thus, particular emphasis is placed on the issues of embodiment and motivational factors as underlying constituents of the body-architecture interactions. Moreover, enactive understanding of the relational coupling between body schema and affordances of architectural spaces singles out the two-way bodily communication between architecture and its inhabitants, which can be also explored in immersive virtual reality settings. Secondly, enactivism has a strong foothold in phenomenological thinking that corresponds to the existing phenomenological discourse in architectural theory and qualitative design approaches. In this way, the enactive approach acknowledges the available common ground between neuroscience and architecture and thus allows a more accurate definition of investigative goals. Accordingly, the outlined model of architectural subject in enactive terms-that is, a model of a human being as embodied, enactive, and situated agent, is proposed as a basis of neuroscientific and phenomenological interpretation of architectural experience.

Original languageEnglish
Article number481
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Issue numberMAR
Publication statusPublished - Mar 31 2016


  • Affordances
  • Architectural experience
  • Body schema
  • Embodiment
  • Emotion
  • Enactive approach
  • Motivation
  • Virtual reality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)


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