The Centre for Conscious Design

Meet Don Ruggles- Architect of Beauty and Wellbeing

In preparation for the 2020 Conscious Cities Festival Denver event, Shaping Health, Conscious Denver will be featuring the work of our event speakers to share how they are impacting change in Denver and beyond. In this segment, we are excited to introduce Don Ruggles, AIA, NCARB, ICAA and CEO at Ruggles Mabe Studio and author of the 2018 book, “Beauty, Neuroscience & Architecture: Timeless Patterns & Their Impact on Our Well-Being.” Don is also the creator of the soon to be released film titled, “Built Beautiful: An Architecture & Neuroscience Love Story.” 

Twelve years ago, Don set out to research beauty as a vital component of architecture. Through his research, Don learned that beauty is related to a pleasure response in the brain and is deeply beneficial to our health and wellbeing through the creation of patterns, spaces, and scenes that promote homeostasis between the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. The sympathetic nervous system is responsible for the human stress response to potential danger while the parasympathetic nervous system counterbalances stress with physiological changes that restore calm to the body. Don has found application for his research in the balancing of environmental cues, creating architecture and interiors that balance calm, ordered and understandable cues with fascination, awe and novel inputs. This careful balance results in built environments that foster health and wellbeing through brainwave coherence, similar to the proven effects of meditation. 

This period of COVID-19 has given Don the opportunity to pause and contemplate the importance of our living spaces as they directly impact our wellbeing. Despite the long term rebalancing that will be required post-pandemic, Don says that humans are social beings with a strong drive to build and maintain interpersonal relationships, suggesting that offices may be reshaped but will likely not disappear from our cities. In response to potential improvements Denver can incorporate following COVID-19, Don would like to see the implementation of a mobile healthcare program to meet the needs of citizens throughout Denver. 

Don advocates and lectures in pursuit of promoting health through the design of beautiful buildings in public spaces with a focus on preservation of the city’s historic structures. Don believes that all humans have an innate drive to seek health and wellbeing and one great source of that is nature. Don is impressed with the extensive transit and bike trail systems, which he sees as key to a healthy city. While Denver has a vibrant outdoors culture which attracts a youthful and active population, Don suggests that Denver could be doing better with regards to increasing access for all citizens to parks, green space, and outdoor access. Denver is a rapidly expanding city and dense construction should be balanced with access to green space and views of nature. Since nature is integral to the overall health and wellbeing of all humans, through the activation of the parasympathetic nervous system, Don believes strongly that access to nature should be equitable throughout all socioeconomic neighborhoods in the city.

Join Don on October 22, 2020 to learn more about how he and others are Shaping Health in Denver!