Alexandra Copan earned her Bachelor of Art from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 2008 with majors in English Literature, Studio Art and Art History, with a Certificate in Technology, Arts and Media. Alexandra is interested in how architecture and design can improve the lives of the individual and the collective.
As Alzheimer’s is a degenerative disease, the process of interacting with the space also changes as the needs of the individual changes. In the early stages of the disease, it is meant to be used as a resource center and later as an adult day care facility. After the disease intensifies, the integrated assisted living facility will be used, reinforcing the spatial and locational significance of the building and site in the neural maps even in increasingly frail minds.
Utilizing existing historic buildings in an attempt to preserve the integrity of the structure while inhabiting a vibrant, accessible location in Chicago. By using buildings that have already been ingrained into the neural maps of local residents, the process of engaging with the structure and its programs will potentially not seem as jarring as it would engaging with an unfamiliar building in a new site. Integrating neuroscientific principles into the architecture and program of the building aims at engaging the brain’s natural processes in a way that would ease the transition and symptoms of the disease. Neurogenesis, the formation of new neurons, has been proven to occur in subjects exposed to complex environments for extended periods of time. These neurons are specifically located in the brain’s hippocampus, which coincidentally is the first region of the brain to be affected by Alzheimer’s disease.
Targeting neurogenesis, through the inclusion of architectural features in complex environments could therefore potentially slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease by replacing neurons and increasing their connections to memories associated within the neuronal connections before they can be destroyed by the disease to at least slow its progression. Including architectural features such as Multi-Sensory Environments (MSE) and Snoelezen as safe spaces that provide brain stimulation by simultaneously engaging all of the senses, in addition to wandering paths and accessible gardens on each level of the building, reinforce the engagement of the brain and healing and calming processes despite the degenerative effects of Alzheimer's disease.
(Master of Architecture with an Emphasis in Interior Architecture)