Architectural 'Aesthetic Incunabula': Empathic Drawing as a movement toward Environmental Enrichment

Beth George, Pia Ednie-Brown, Michael Chapman

Research output: Contribution to conferenceConference presentation/ephemera


It is now well established that environmental enrichment is linked to cognitive enhancement in the growing and developing brain, and to reduced cognitive decline in the ageing brain. Work in neurobiology (Gallese et al) has started to flesh out much of the how and why of these critical bodily, cognitive and environmental relations through understanding the role of mirror neurons, empathy, and the complexities of interrelationship. There remains, however, a huge gap between scientific understanding and the development of principles for architectural design pertaining to cognitive enhancement. Our proposition is that this gap in knowledge could be partially investigated through attention to the primary activity of architects, which is firstly drawing and designing, before these become translated into buildings. Our approach is to recast this act of drawing as a connecting, non-verbal medium of exchange between gestures or bodies in space – and to analyse the spatial modulations of these interactions. During the days just prior to the opening BoK2019 exhibition Thinking Rooms / Enacting Knowledges, a group of creative practitioners have engaged in a collaborative drawing process in the gallery space, via a technological assemblage enabling relays and feedback loops. One aspiration of this experiment was to analyse the activity through the lens of ‘aesthetic incunabula’, a term taken from Ellen Dissanyake that refers to the crossmodal, supramodal, and nonverbal characteristics of adult-infant interactions. She argues that these dimensions of human interaction are “important elements of adult experiences of the arts, as is the expression and sharing of emotion” (Dissanyake, 2001, 338). Following experiments in the gallery, we hope to unpack tacit aesthetic incunabula, and speculate on how these might play a role in the design of enriched environments.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 26 Jun 2019
EventBody of Knowledge: Art and Embodied Cognition - Deakin University, Melbourne, Australia
Duration: 27 Jun 201929 Jun 2019


ConferenceBody of Knowledge: Art and Embodied Cognition
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