Upali Nanda, PH.D., ASSOC. AIA, EDAC, ACHE

Upali Nanda, PhD, Assoc. AIA, EDAC, ACHE
Director of Research and Senior VP, HKS Inc.
Executive Director, Center for Advanced Design Research and Evaluation (CADRE)
Associate Professor of Practice, Taubman School of Architecture and Urban Planning, University of Michigan


Dr. Upali Nanda is Principal and Director of Research for HKS, a global architectural firm, where she is responsible for spearheading and implementing research projects globally. She also teaches as an Associate Professor of Practice at Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning and serves as the Executive Director for the non-profit Center for Advanced Design Research and Education. Her doctoral work on “Sensthetics” has been published as a book available on Amazon.com. She has published extensively in peer-reviewed journals and main stream media and won awards for her research from the European Health Design, Interior Design Journal and EDRA CORE. In 2015, Dr. Nanda was recognized as one of the top 10 most influential people in Healthcare Design by the Healthcare Design Magazine. Most recently, she was honored by Architectural Record with the 2018 Women in Architecture Innovator Award.

ANFA Themes

I am a researcher in practice, with a foot in academia, committed to how research can inform and elevate the practice of architecture and build the bridge between academia and industry. My passion is in the nesting (and intersecting) scales between brain, body, building (physical & virtual), business and biosphere- anchored very much on the human experience. In my doctoral work on sensory design I explored different sensory modalities and the interplay between them. I stumbled across the world of neuroscience in this investigation and was hooked. How is it that we as space planners and place choreographers are so ignorant of how the brain works? I started reading about neuroscience and connecting the dots to architecture, especially around cross modal and intermodal investigations. I continued this passion for neuroscience after graduation and conducted a comprehensive lit review for a funded grant that looked at how the brain responded to nature images and natural forms. This led me to investigating how form impacts emotion, and a collaborative research engagement with colleagues that included fMRI experiments on the brain response to curved and angular architecture images. From early research on art that showed that simply a view could impact anxiety medication, to current sensor-led studies- I have been experimenting with experiments embedded within real life practice. Our team today has made a committed to Brain + Building, is working on a Sensory Design Lab, and a program called Living Labs, all situated within the hub of architectural practice. I love being on the cusp of discovery, linking design to outcomes, and trying, failing and learning (methodically) in this attempt.

Selected Publications

Nanda, U. (2017). A Sensthetic Approach to Designing for Health. Journal of Interior Design42(2), 7-12. [Invited Paper]

Pati, D.; O’Boyle, M; Hou, J; Nanda, U and Ghamari, H (2016) . Can Hospital Form Trigger Fear Response? Health Environments Research & Design Journal, 10.1177/1937586715624210

Nanda, U.; Bajema, R., Hessam, Pati, D.(2013)  Emotion follows Form, Form follows Function. Intelligent Buildings International, DOI:10.1080/17508975.2013.807767(Invited Paper).

Nanda, U., Zhu, X., & Jansen, B. H. (2012). Image and emotion: From outcomes to brain behavior. Health Environments Research & Design Journal, 5(4), 40-59.

Nanda, U. Eisen, S., Zadeh, R., & Owen, D. (2011). Effect of visual art on patient anxiety and agitation in a mental health facility and implications for the business case. Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing.

Nanda, U, Pati, Debajyoti and McCurry, Katie (2009). Neuroesthetics and Healthcare Design. Health Environment Research and Design Journal. Winter;2(2):116-133

Nanda, U. (2008). Sensthetics: A Crossmodal Approach to Sensory Design. VDM-Verlag.