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Polyvagal Theory in Architecture

Course Status:


Polyvagal Theory in Architecture

CE's Available:


Cost: $





Ann Sussman

Stephen W. Porges, PhD

Course Overview

This conversation looks at how Polyvagal Theory is transformative, helping us better understand human interaction - and in so doing also helping us grasp the subliminal ways we respond to our surroundings. In this free-ranging talk with architect Ann Sussman, Dr. Porges explains how appreciating the mechanisms that drive our emotional states has relevance to other fields outside biology and psychology – including architecture. For humans always looking for attachment, a building façade can be seen as a 'surrogate' for a face. When buildings present blank glass facades, like many downtown cityscapes today, it's interesting to see that they don't attract social interaction. When buildings have face-like facades, on the other hand, with symmetrical windows that might suggest eyes, we are subliminally attracted, the space becomes one in which people tend to meet as it makes us feel safe and at home. Join Ann Sussman and Dr. Porges as they explore the connection between our social engagement systems and the effect building design has on us as individuals, as well as a society. Students will have access to the course for 180 days from the date of registration.


2 videos



Recommended Audience


CE's and/or Certificate of Completion Available

Certificate of Completion upon course completion.


Ann Sussman

Ann Sussman, an architect, author and researcher, is passionate about understanding how buildings influence people emotionally. Her book, Cognitive Architecture, Designing for How We respond to the Built Environment (Routledge, 2015) co-authored with Justin B. Hollander, won the 2016 Place Research Award from the Environmental Design Research Association (EDRA). A 2nd edition, featuring eye-tracked architecture, came out in July, 2021. Ann teaches a course on the human experience of buildings at the Boston Architectural College (BAC) and serves as President of the educational non- profit, the Human Architecture and Planning Institute, Inc. ( More info on her work at the blog and website:

Ann Sussman

Stephen W. Porges, PhD

Stephen W. Porges, PhD

Stephen W. Porges, Ph.D. is a Distinguished University Scientist at Indiana University where he is the founding director of the Traumatic Stress Research Consortium in the Kinsey Institute. He is Professor of Psychiatry at the University of North Carolina, and Professor Emeritus at both the University of Illinois at Chicago and the University of Maryland. He served as president of the Society for Psychophysiological Research and the Federation of Associations in Behavioral & Brain Sciences and is a former recipient of a National Institute of Mental Health Research Scientist Development Award. He is the originator of the Polyvagal Theory, a theory that emphasizes the importance of physiological state in the expression of behavioral, mental, and health problems related to traumatic experiences. He is the creator of a music-based intervention, the Safe and Sound Protocol ™ , which currently is used by approximately 3,000 therapists to improve spontaneous social engagement, to reduce hearing sensitivities, and to improve language processing, state regulation, and spontaneous social engagement. Dr. Porges is a founder of the Polyvagal Institute.


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