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Curves for creativity: How round spaces elevate mood and spark innovation

Curved or round rooms enhance positive mood, make us calmer and boost creativity. 

Oliver Baumann
Associate Professor, Oliver Baumann

That’s according to new research by Master of Psychology (Clinical) student and researcher Kimberley Strachan-Regan, and Bond University Associate Professor and experimental psychologist, Oliver Baumann. 

While previous research has predominantly focused on elements like nature and lighting within architectural spaces, there is a growing literature base that also investigates the psychological and neurophysiological impacts of geometrical properties of architectural spaces.

Employing virtual reality technology, Dr Baumann and his team sought to investigate the effects of curved and rectangular architectural spaces on affective states, heart rate, and creativity.

“We placed 35 participants in virtual reality in almost identical offices — one round, and the other rectangular — and assessed their mood, heart rate and responses to creativity tasks,” he said. 

"Those in the round rooms not only reported feeling better, but also had a lower heart rate and exhibited higher creative output in a standard creativity task as opposed to those in rectangular room.”

Dr Baumann believes the positive emotional response round-shaped rooms elicit, dates back to our ancestors.

“Evolutionarily, round shapes are often associated with safety and comfort. Round shapes lack sharp edges or corners, which are often associated with potential danger or harm.”

We spend the majority of our time inside, so Dr Baumann says these results are significant in gaining further understanding on the impact architecture has on our overall well-being. 

“We all probably don’t spend as much time outside as we would like, so when it comes to our personal spaces, workplaces and hospitals or rehabilitation centres, we are able to recognise how architectural design drastically influences the mood, physiology, and mental health of individuals.”

“Rectangular rooms are the settings that most humans are exposed to daily, and the study demonstrated that rectangular room geometry can elicit increased negative mood.

“While changing the design of our environments isn’t an easy or quick task, this research is imperative for future projects. It’s easier for architects and designers these days, with advanced technology, to round out the edges of future projects and by incorporating curved room designs, they can create spaces that improve our mood, reduce stress, and increase creative thinking.”

See full study here: The impact of room shape on affective states, heartrate, and creative output - ScienceDirect

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