podcast | Feb 20, 2024 |
Suchi Reddy and the science behind why good design brings good feelings

Suchi Reddy always asks her students, “What’s the first memory of a space that made an impact on you?” For Reddy, who was born and raised in Chennai, India, it was the house she grew up in, designed as a series of rooms surrounding a central space that opened to gardens on all sides. “I always call it my first epiphany, when I felt like, ‘Oh, my house makes me who I am,’” the architect and designer tells host Dennis Scully on the latest episode of The Business of Home Podcast. That sense of fulfillment a space can bring its inhabitants has become the driving force of her life’s work.

Reddy has devoted much of her career to neuroaesthetics, the study of how art and design affect our emotions and well-being. She has integrated those principles into the foundation of her New York–based architectural firm Reddymade, which she launched in 2002, as well as in her teaching at Cooper Union’s Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture and Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation. At Salone del Mobile in 2019, Reddy collaborated with Google and Johns Hopkins University’s Arts + Mind Lab on an interactive installation called “A Space for Being,” where she measured the bodily reactions of visitors in various designed rooms to illustrate the impact of neuroaesthetics.

“The through line in my practice is this idea that form should follow feeling. This comes from the early experience of my childhood and the importance of space and our environments and how they help us be our best people,” she says. “The pandemic taught everybody that when we had to go indoors, really, the kind of environment that we surround ourselves in can be very, very important to us.” Elsewhere in the episode, Reddy discusses how design can help improve mental and physical health, when AI can be useful, and why reusability needs to be implemented systematically in design.

Crucial insight: Reddy emphasizes that creating spaces that feel good is possible with budgets big and small. “It could be something as simple as a door handle. The fact that you get to choose one that actually fits your hand—that feels good. The fact that you thought about that—that you thought about what was good for you—has power,” she says. “These are the kinds of things that I try to talk to people about, because it’s not just about, ‘I have to have a ton of money in order to be able to do this right.’ No, you just have to make the right choices.”

Key quote: “I think, to some degree, the arts have been sidelined by either science or technology, and culture is sort of running behind science and technology and forgetting where the arts are,” says Reddy. “The arts are just as important, and without them, we couldn’t exist, really. To bring the importance of that back into view and into the frame is what I focus on.”

Listen to the show below. If you like what you hear, subscribe on Apple Podcasts or Spotify. This episode is sponsored by Minted.

The Thursday Show

BOH executive editor Fred Nicolaus joins host Dennis Scully to go over the biggest news in the industry, including a huge shift in global manufacturing, a look at whether Apple’s new VR headset will matter for designers, and why rumors about the death of drapery have been greatly exaggerated. Later, Pooky Lighting founder Rohan Blacker shares his winding entrepreneurship journey and explains the sudden rise of rechargeable lamps.

Listen to the show below. If you like what you hear, subscribe on Apple Podcasts or Spotify. This episode is sponsored by Loloi.

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