The aesthetic-architectural affordances of a city influence our feelings and thoughts.
The conscious aesthetic perception of our environment goes beyond experiences of beauty and include emotions such as interest and wonder.
An aesthetic attitude – e.g. triggered by a surprising or challenging architecture – enables new cognitive processing patterns and can thus open up new perspectives, create identities and reduce stress.

Aesthetic criteria are central to the evaluation of a place. The aesthetic perception of urban cultural landscapes refers both to architecture and to natural landscapes or landscape elements within the city. People generally perceive natural landscapes as a valuable commodity that facilitates social interaction, recreation and relaxation and thus has a health-promoting value (Kaplan, 1995). According to the “Prospect Refuge Hypothesis” (Appleton, 1975), the underlying aesthetic landscape preference depends on whether the surroundings offer both protection and opportunities for retreat (refuge) and sufficient overview (prospect). According to the landscape preference model of Kaplan and Kaplan (1982), aesthetic perception depends on four factors. These include sufficient complexity of the landscape, a high degree of coherence (of the respective components), easy comprehension and a certain degree of mystery, which is intended to arouse curiosity and the need for exploration. These models of aesthetic preference can also be applied to built-up urban space. Along with natural urban landscapes, architecture and urban space trigger moods, enable sensory experiences and call for an emotional assessment of the urban environment.

Using the methods of neuroaesthetics, aesthetic psychology and design-based research, we capture the architectural, spatial and social qualities of the city in relation to aesthetic assessments. For example, one of our studies shows that an architecture of public spaces that is complex and not monotonous is perceived as more beautiful and inviting for exploration and social interaction.
In general, the question arises: What is the connection between architectural and urban planning resources and aesthetic perceptions of beauty, complexity, diversity, openness, liveliness and exceptionality? This is followed by the question: Must cities worth living in be beautiful? We start with the city’s offers – on the level of navigation and orientation, movement and use, and sensory experiences: How do a street, a district, or an interesting building constitute the interaction of our body with its surroundings? When do urban planning and architectural decisions trigger either positive or negative assessments? How do these assessments vary between population groups?
Aesthetics can mean even more – a shift from pragmatic processing (navigating the way to work) to an aesthetic one (when we pause and contemplate, evaluate and process emotions). This can be triggered, for example, by open spaces and green spaces, but also by challenging architecture or art in architecture. As such, aesthetic experiences enable other cognitive processing patterns and opens up new possibilities for action. This is one of the reasons why the “aesthetics of the city” are a key dimension of neurourbanism.

If architecture is perceived as beautiful, it invites exploration and social interaction.