In addition to content, the dramatic change of scale in such an experience enables visual processing to facilitate one of the brain’s vital functions: cognitive restoration. The chronic cognitive drain that interactive devices inflict on precious cognitive resources like attention, memory, and emotional balance, cannot be overstated. Multisensory access to the outdoors is part and parcel of our ability to effectively marshal and sustain our cognitive resources throughout the day. All higher cognitive tasks that demand sustained attention over time, particularly over a narrow field of view, require regular visual breaks for us to sustain optimal mental acuity. Island time is more than an idiomatic expression; it’s a genuine neurochemical state of cognitive restoration. While nature imagery is extensively used to decorate interiors, deliberately designing sky and nature images to work in the context of an architectural portal changes how visual input is perceived, modifying how the ceiling plane can suddenly be perceived as an explosion of volume. Such tools provide designers with a cognitive toolkit to redress the deleterious impact of commercial buildings that, due to their long lifecycles, will still be occupied well into the 2050s.
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