A research team at the University of Toronto at Scarborough worked with several European designers to see what sort of spaces pleases our brains more.
Fast Company reports that the team, led by psychologist Oshin Vartanian, found that people are “far more likely to call a room beautiful when its design is round instead of linear.”
Hence, when Philip Johnson first visited the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, designed by the curve-master Frank Gehry, the tears he reportedly shed were caused by the building’s design tapping into some primordial human emotional network.
To conduct the study, the team slid people into a brain imaging machine and showed them pictures of rooms and buildings. They found that oblong couches, oval rugs, and looping floor patterns were universally seen as beautiful by all men and women who participated.
One of the many conclusions Vartanian and his team found was that human brains associate sharp lines (and sharp objects in general) with a threat, so curves signal a lack of threat, or safety.
Learn more about the research at Fast Company.