Places of the Heart


256 pages

Trade Paper

List Price US $19.99
ISBN: 9781942658009


ISBN: 9781942658016

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“From Neolithic monuments that awe to ‘playground casinos’ that empty wallets, Ellard argues that a scientific understanding of how our surroundings affect us must be the foundation on which we build the cities and homes of tomorrow.”


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“A really great book.”

Ira Flatow, Science Friday

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“A great read.”

Rudy Maxa, Rudy Maxa’s World

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“Meshing recent findings with thoughtful appraisals of their implications, Ellard looks at spaces and the awe, lust, boredom, affection or anxiety that they trigger. He is richly insightful, particularly on digital encroachments into the experience of place.”


“Wide-ranging and absorbing. . . . Powerfully and comprehensively written. . . . An exceptional introduction to a vital part of the human experience.”

Colorado Review

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“Ellard breaks down psychological and neurological information in an accessible way. . . . Highly recommended.”

Book Riot

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“A powerful argument for the paramount importance of our daily surroundings. . . . This book offers readers a deeper appreciation of how architectural and environmental design can affect human well-being. Ellard provides the scientific backing to affirm what we intuitively know: that designing and building better surroundings can have tangible effects on our health and happiness.”

Canadian Architect

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“Aren’t architects and urban planners trained to design buildings and cities? Why should a psychologist have a say in this? Because Ellard brings tools to the design board that should help ensure more positive responses to urban environment, from a mundane alleyway to an awe-inspiring cathedral or city hall. . . . Places of the Heart should stimulate debate about how our cities are shaped and how they shape us.”

Waterloo Region Record

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“Ellard shows that simple distinctions between nature and culture tend to collapse where many modern technologies are concerned. . . . Many of the trends with which Ellard engages—such as virtual reality technology that would allow individuals to live in a curated, mediated, personalized, and highly commodified bubble—sound as if they were pulled from the pages of Ray Bradburyesque science fiction.”

Quill & Quire

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“If you care about your city and your happiness, read every page of this fascinating book. Places of the Heart offers a thrilling journey through the pathways of our cities and the human mind. This is no flight of fancy. It’s an evidence-based exploration of how the places we inhabit change our minds and bodies. Colin Ellard is one of the world’s foremost thinkers on the neuroscience of urban design. Here he offers an entirely new way to understand our cities—and ourselves.”

Charles Montgomery, author of Happy City: Transforming Our Lives Through Urban Design

“This beautifully written book grabs the reader from the start, with personal stories from the author’s life interwoven with history, archaeology, technology, and design.”

Esther M. Sternberg, MD, author of Healing Spaces: The Science of Place and Well-Being

Our surroundings can powerfully affect our thoughts, emotions, and physical responses, whether we’re awed by the Grand Canyon or Hagia Sophia, panicked in a crowded room, soothed by a walk in the park, or tempted in casinos and shopping malls. In Places of the Heart, Colin Ellard explores how our homes, workplaces, cities, and nature—places we escape to and can’t escape from—have influenced us throughout history, and how our brains and bodies respond to different types of real and virtual space. As he describes the insight he and other scientists have gained from new technologies, he assesses the influence these technologies will have on our evolving environment and asks what kind of world we are, and should be, creating.

Library of Science Book Club selection

Discover magazine “What to Read” selection

Book Riot “Small Press Book to Read” selection

Excerpt from Places of the Heart

Tune in to Science Friday to hear Ira Flatow and Colin Ellard discuss psychogeography and read an excerpt from Places of the Heartthen listen in on more interviews with Colin Ellard on NPR’s Here & Now and Rudy Maxa’s World.

Read more from Colin Ellard’s Places of the Heart in Slate and Aeon magazine, and embark on a virtual walking tour of New York with Colin in a 5-parts series from Pulse of the Planet: Part 1; Part 2; Part 3; Part 4; Part 5.

Find out what it’s like to participate in Colin Ellard’s walking tours/research projects, “exploring the relationship between psychology and urban design using the tools of neuroscience,” in the Toronto Star.

From Mumbai to Lake Victoria: Colin Ellard talks about the places that have left an “indelible emotional mark” on CBC Arts; discusses the psychological cost of boring places with New York magazine; investigates the psychology of scary places with CHCH-TV; and writes about the Pokémon Go craze and brain health at Quartz.

Listen to Colin Ellard discuss “how your city’s streets affect your mental health” on HuffPost Live; the science behind psychogeography on ABC Radio National’s Sunday Extra; the “psychology behind urban politeness” on Monocle magazine’s The Urbanist; our environment’s effect on physical and mental health on HumanLab; and the importance of library design with the Ontario Library Association’s Open Shelf.