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The Architecture of scientific discovery

November 11 2013 , Written by Wing-Fai Thi Published on #Architecture

In his essay “The Architecture of Happiness”, Alain de Botton explores how humans shape their surroundings to incorporate their desire of beauty, which ultimately leads to happiness. This begs the question: what would be the best architecture for an astronomical research institute?

Doing science is juggling with two paradoxes. One needs to isolate himself to focus on tasks like thinking, reading, or writing. But one also needs to communicate by exchanging ideas on a daily basis at his institution or during professional gatherings. The best architecture should be beautiful and at the same time satisfy those requirements. I had experienced various astronomical working environments with different architectural ideas. Each of them strives to fulfil the needs of the researchers but I could not name one that is an ideal astronomical work place.

How institute design can bring happiness and therefore productivity since I feel myself much more productive if I appreciate my working environment?

Institutes should be in a single building and span a single floor. There should not be intricate corridors. A pleasant common area located in the centre is paramount to foster exchange of ideas. Offices should be sound proof and should have many windows (light is important especially in high-latitude countries). Other researchers may have other requirements to be added to this list.

Shops perform market researches to find out the best decoration to attract clients. Decision makers at Universities and Research institutions can borrow some of their techniques to make future institutes much more pleasant to researchers and students and hence much more suitable for scientific discoveries.

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