PEARL is a unique space for exploring how urban design works with the human brain to create environments that work for people



PEARL (Person-Environment-Activity Research Laboratory) is a transformative space that brings together all the sensory information people receive and enables urban designers to learn how to make the design of the environment communicate with people. In PEARL we can control the environment – the difference between daylight in the morning and the afternoon at different times of year, for example.

These changes in daylight trigger the release of specific hormones in the human body, yielding very different reactions from people at different times of day or year. How do we design the space to adapt to this? What happens when we add artificial lighting to this mix? Then there is time: when is “now”? – “now” is when we accumulate our lived experiences and our aspirations for the future, folding and kneading them like a dough to make a multifaceted but everchanging present. PEARL uses understanding of music and dance to let us create more possibilities in urban space and time, to understand how different sounds – frequencies, pulses, rhythms – affect people’s perception of time and space. But when we combine smell into the sensory mix, we create even more possibilities – touch, sounds and sights change markedly when we are exposed to different smells.

The human brain combines all our sensory inputs to create our overall perception of the environment. Most of these sensory inputs are beyond our conscious awareness and PEARL is the only place in the world that studies the symbiosis, synergy and synchronicity between the brain’s multisensorial perceptions and urban design to comprehend how this connectivity works. With this understanding, we can learn to work with people’s perceptions in creating the design of their surrounding environment. PEARL will help us create urban design that truly converses with the people who experience it, making towns and cities truly fit for purpose: thriving, vital, and evolutionary.

Project Team

Nick Tyler  UCL

Penoyre & Prasad

Judges' Comments

"Providing urban design with a better research base is commendable and much needed."