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Workshop 1

EXPerience


Preface EXPERIENCE OF THE SENSES

HEGEMONY OF SIGHT

The intention of the first workshop we organized for the students of Explore lab 4 was on the one hand an acquaintance and on the other hand to explore the theme of our subgroup, namely ‘Experience’. The meaning of the term ‘experience’ is the first item we tried to discover. Questions as ‘How can architecture be experienced?’ and ‘Which aspects influence one’s experience?’ arose. For that reason at first we determined the word Experience:

While experiencing space we, as human beings, regard sight as the most important, developed and stimulated sense. The growing hegemony of the eye seems to be parallel with the development of Western self-awareness and the increasing distance between the self and the world; ‘Vision separates us from the world whereas the other senses unite us with it’ (Pallasmaa, p.25). Beginning with the ancient Greeks, Western culture has been dominated by an ocular centric paradigm, a vision-generated, vision-centered interpretation of knowledge, truth, and reality’ Levin (1993), Modernity and the hegemony of vision. The today’s capacity of the eye is being strengthened and expanded by technology and even enables men to have a look at the other side of the world. Then speed that goes with this phenomenon makes time and space blend into each other which results in a ‘temporalisation of space’ and a ‘spatialisation of time’. ‘The only sense that is fast enough to keep pace with the astounding increase of speed in the technological world is sight. But the world of the eye is causing us to live increasingly in a perpetual present, flattened by speed and simultaneity’ (Pallasmaa, p.17).

1ex•pe•ri•ence: the fact or state of having been affected by or gained knowledge through direct observation or participation Related to architecture we wanted to explore the theme by experiencing space. The meaning mentioned above indicates that experiencing is not only about observation, but can also be a result of participation. If we then come back to the experience of architecture, this would indicate that space is not only being observed but also let the observer be part of itself. It was then that we agreed that experiencing space is not only a result of looking, but also a perception of the other senses. As Juhani Pallasmaa says in his book ‘The eyes of the skin: ‘Various architectures can be distinguished on the basis of the sense modality they tend to emphasize. Alongside the prevailing architecture of the eye, there is a haptic architecture of the muscle and the skin. There is architecture that also recognizes the realms of hearing, smell and taste’ (p.70).

The thought that sight is our most important sense with which one experiences space, is not only a result of historical development of privileging of the sense of vision. This perception is well grounded in perceptual, physiological and psychological facts, which causes the isolation of the eye outside the natural interaction with, and therefore a suppression of, the other senses. In this way the experience of the world is being reduced into the sphere of vision which diminishes the comprehensiveness and plasticity of the perceptual system.


The thought that sight is our most important sense with which one experiences space, is not only a result of historical development of privileging of the sense of vision. This perception is well grounded in perceptual, physiological and psychological facts, which causes the isolation of the eye outside the natural interaction with, and therefore a suppression of, the other senses. In this way the experience of the world is being reduced into the sphere of vision which diminishes the comprehensiveness and plasticity of the perceptual system. HYPOTHESIS The main goal of our workshop was to test our notion of ‘experiencing space’. From our point of view people experience space not only by looking at it. The impression (which can be very personal) is a result of using more than the sense of vision and sometimes another sense is even more stimulated than sight. The experience is then most influenced by another sense. The workshop has been divided in three parts. In this way, we could explore the matters: • (Un)conscious perception of the environment; • Experiencing space by inactivating four of the senses; • Experiencing space by movement. Source: Eyes of the Skin, J. Pallasmaa


Workshop 1A

Perception of noise


Theory (UN)CONSCIOUS PERCEPTION OF THE ENVIROMENT The goal of the workshop was to find out if people relate crowdedness to noise. We got this idea by one of our “explore-mates” Kenzo, who told us a story about when he was filming in a crowded area. He expected a lot of background noise when he played the tape back but on the contrary it was fairly quite. Juhani Pallasmaa argues that: ‘Hearing structures articulate the experience and understanding of space. We are not normally aware of the significance of hearing in spatial experience, although sound often provides the temporal continuum in which visual impressions are embedded’. This gave us the idea to test if the same phenomenon would happen if we asked our other explore-mates to walk a certain route through the city. In the first part of the workshop the whole group was divided in two subgroups, each subgroup containing two workshop initiators conducting ‘the experiment’. During this workshop part , the subgroups were led through six chosen public places, situated between Rotterdam Central Station and the NAI. Here they had to observe the surroundings. The participants of the first subgroup were asked to take the time to adjust to the place and fill in a form on how they felt at that place, considering coziness, friendliness, and comprehensiveness of the place. The second subgroup wasn’t asked to react on the spaces in a particular way. As Juhani Pallasmaa argues in ‘The eyes of the Skin’ vision is our most dominant sense, that’s why we expect the groups to act on what they see instead of what they hear.

At the end of the first part of the workshop both subgroups were asked to recall about the noise level of the places they stopped at and the noise that was the most dominant of that particular place. This was done in order to compare the two subgroups in their recollection of the place, considering the fact that one group did some pre-focusing, while the other didn’t. Does the focusing and describing the place in advance influence the recollection of noise?


Conclusions WS1a INFLUENCE INFORMED BEFOREHAND

As stated in the introduction, the group started with the workshop divided up in two subgroups. The first group (of eight test subjects) was informed beforehand that the experiment would focus on the amount of noise at several places in Rotterdam. The second group (of six test subjects) was not informed of this. We wanted to test if the experience of noise by people would be influenced by the fact that they beforehand had been informed of the subject of investigation. After walking the route through Rotterdam, we asked the subgroups to fill in a small questionnaire. We asked them whether they experienced the separate places as quiet or loud on a scale of 1 to 5, where 1 would be very quite and 5 very loud. (Below a sample question from the questonnaire)

Experience (not informed)

EXPERIENCE AND ACTUAL NOISE LEVELS In addition to investigating the experience of noise, we also measured the actual noise levels at the different places along the route. With a decibel meter we walked the same route as the subgroups and measured the decibel level at the each of those places. This way we are able to compare the experiences of the groups with the actual noise levels and see if the experiences correspond with the measured levels. .

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Places

Fig. 1 and 2 Experience of noise at places along the route

Places

Eendrachtsplein

Urban park

Paulus Church

Eendrachtsplein

Urban park

Paulus Church

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Schouwburgplein

Eendrachtsplein

Urban park

Paulus Church

Schouwburgplein

Plaza passage

Rotterdam CS

Eendrachtsplein

Urban park

Paulus Church

Schouwburgplein

Plaza passage

Rotterdam CS

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Places

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Schouwburgplein

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Rotterdam CS

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70

Plaza passage

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Noiselevel dB(A)

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Rotterdam CS

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Experience

Experience

Experience

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Noiselevels

Experience (overall)

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Plaza passage

Experience (informed)

When you compare the two graphs (fig. 1 and 2), you’ll notice that the difference between them is negligible. The two graphs basically follow the same shape, with some minor differences in experienced loudness at some of the places. If there would be some mayor differences, we could assume that there might have been some influence on the experience of noise if they were informed beforehand. Now that the differences are negligible, it is safe to assume that this didn’t have a big influence.

Places

Fig. 3 Overall experience of noise at places along the route Fig. 4 Measured noise levels at these places


The first notable thing is that there definitely are differences between the experiences of the groups and the measured noise levels. First, one of the biggest differences is that the groups think that place #6 Eendrachtsplein is the loudest place, while the measured levels tell us something different; place #1 Rotterdam CS is actually the loudest place. And secondly, the groups thought that places #2 Plaza passage and #3 Schouwburgplein are the most quiet of the visited places, however the measured levels tell us slightly otherwise. Place #2 is actually quite loud, when compared to place #3. We also asked the subgroups to write down which sound source they found most overwhelming at the places along the route: #1 #2 #3 #4 #5 #6

Rotterdam CS Plaza passage Schouwburgplein Paulus Church Urban park Eendrachtsplein

group chatting + people group chatting wind and rain traffic traffic traffic

Fig. 5 Most overwhelming sound sources present at places along the route

When we describe the differences between the places we visited and combine this with the results from fig. 3, 4 and 5, we can try to understand why the experience of people is different from the measured results. One thing we’ve noticed is that places where there was a lot of movement, from people, cars, trams, etc., like Rotterdam CS and Eendrachtsplein, the groups experienced those places as busy and therefore also as loud. In perception, there seems to be a connection or association between busy, crowded and loud.

The same holds true for places with a lack of movement, like Plaza passage and Schouwburgplein. Those places were experienced as the most quiet among the places we visited. On a final note, it might be interesting to know that three of the places we visited exceeded the maximum noise level permitted at those places (see fig. 4). *Maximum allowed outdoor noise level (65 dB(A)) next to a road and in front of a dwelling in an urban setting. From: Wakker liggen tegen betaling; een methode om extreme geluidsoverlast te verminderen (http:// www.tbm.tudelft.nl/webstaf/jann/trail99.htm, in dutch only)


Workshop 1B

Experience of the senses


Theory EXPERIENCING SPACE BY INACTIVATING FOUR OF THE SENSES The intention of the second -and main- part of the workshop was to experience different kinds of spaces by using no more than one of the senses, which resulted into an inactivation of all the other senses. Unfortunately one of the disadvantages was that a person can not inactivate the entire sense of skin. Each leader of the subgroups was able to use all the senses in order to compare the experience of a ‘normal’ condition with the experience of persons that could only smell, hear, touch, see or hear. In this way we presumed that one of the senses would stroke with the normal condition and that it would not often be the sense of the eye. Memorable experiences of architecture break through our consciousness. We identify ourselves with this space. Architecture is the art of bringing together ourselves and the world, and this intervention takes place through the senses. ‘Experiencing architecture is multi-sensory; qualities of space, matter and scale are measured together by the eye, ear, nose, skin, tongue, skeleton and muscle. Architecture strengthens one’s sense of being in the world, and this is basically an enforced experience of self. ‘Instead of mere vision, or the five classical senses, architecture involves several realms of sensory experience which interact and fuse into each other’ (Pallasmaa, p.41). SIGHT ‘The eyes want to collaborate with the other senses. All the senses, including vision, can be regarded as extensions of the skin. They define the interface between the skin and the environment between the opaque interiority of the body and the exteriority of the world’. (Pallasmaa, p.42) The eye creates a distance between a person and the observed object. It surveys, controls and investigates, while touch approaches.

During emotional experiences, we try to reduce the distance by closing off the sense of vision; we close the eyes when we dream, listen to music, or caress our beloved ones. ‘Deep shadows and darkness are essential, because the dim the sharpness of vision, make depth and distance ambiguous, and invite unconscious peripheral vision and tactile fantasy’ (Pallasmaa, p.46). HEARING Sound measures space and makes its scale understandable. ‘Sight isolates, whereas sound incorporates; vision is directional, whereas sound is Omni-directional’ (Pallasmaa, p.49). One regards an object, while sound approaches; the eye reaches, while the ear receives. Buildings don’t respond to our stare, but they do send back our echo. Every particular building has its own characteristic sound, which forms a grade of intimacy or distance, an invitation or rejection. Through its echo, a space is being understood equally as through its visual shape. This is often being unrecognized by people because the acoustic observation is generally an unaware background experience. TOUCH The skin reads texture, weight, density and temperature. ‘The only sense which can give a sensation of spatial depth is touch, because touch senses the eight, resistance, and three-dimensional shape (gestalt) of material bodies, and thus makes us aware that things extend away from us in all our directions’. (Pallasmaa, p.42). Vision exposes what the touch already knows. We could consider the sense of touch as the unconsciousness of vision. SMELL The most determined memory of any space is often its smell. ‘A particular smell makes us unknowingly re-enter a space completely forgotten by the retinal memory; the nostrils awaken a forgotten image, and we are enticed to enter a vivid daydream. The nose makes the eyes remember. ‘Memory and imagination remain associated,’ as Bachelard writes’ (Pallasmaa, p.54) Source: PALLASMAA, J. (1996), THE EYES OF THE SKIN_ARCHITECTURE AND THE SENSES


LIBRARY The results of the sense which has the most similarities with the persons, who used all the senses, are the ones of hearing. Apparently one experiences this space by using the ears. Characteristics of the space are the fullness, the dry climate and the silence. The sense of hearing is stimulated the most, which can be clarified by the fact that the sound is being fainted by the books, the soft materials, such as chairs, and the obligation to be silent.

* The 4 diagrams that are to be seen in the report are the 2 of ‘all senses’ that show the most divers results, in comparison with the diagram that is most similar to those.


RAMPS The results of the sense which has the most similarities with the persons, who used all the senses, are the ones of sight. Apparently one experiences this space by mostly looking at it. Characteristics of the space are the narrowness, the darkness and the slopes. The sense of sight is stimulated the most, which can be clarified by the fact that one has the need to be more focused by seeing in order to compensate for the lack of light, straightness and wideness; to watch ones step.

* The 4 diagrams that are to be seen in the report are the 2 of ‘all senses’ that show the most divers results, in comparison with the diagram that is most similar to those.


Average space experience

1 METROSTATION

2 COLONADE

In considering the size of a space, perceiving solely with sight deviates the most from perceiving with all the senses, while perceiving only by touch deviates the least. This is strange in comparison with the perception of strayness, where sight is deviating the least, together with hearing. It is interesting to note that colourfulness is perceived least deviating by using touch and smell separately in comparison with using hearing and sight separately.

Under the colonnade, touch is strangely least deviating in comparison with the other senses. One could say this has to do with the fact that hearing is the second least deviating sense used separately. These two senses give a better general impression of the space than the other two senses used separately. The reason that touch is least deviating might have to do with the fact that there is little to smell and see in comparison with what there is to touch and hear under the almost monolithic


Average space experience

3 TOILETS

4 RAMP

Most deviating senses used separately are hearing and sight, while the least deviating is touch. Warmth, height and tidiness are perceived by solely touch just as they are perceived by using all the senses. When perceiving warmth, even smell is of a representative value for the use of all the senses at once.

On the ramps, smell used separately is most representative for perceiving with all the senses at the same time. Sight is fluctuating the most. For instance, when perceiving size, height and tidiness of a space, sight least deviates from the use of all senses at once, while it is least representative for this use


Average space experience

5 LIBRARY

6. STAIRCASE

In the staircase, hearing is least deviating, which might have to do with the way we perceive height an narrowness of a space by concentrating on the reverberation( nagalm) of a space when using all the senses together. The staircase is a rather steep and narrow, and therefore very high space in relation to the other spaces in the NAi. Although, when perceiving the fullness of the staircase, hearing becomes most deviating in comparison with other senses used separately and is most representative. To that it is very contradictory that for strayness of the staircase, touch is least representative for the use of all the senses.

For perceiving the amount of light in the library, hearing is the only sense which is a little bit deviating in comparison with using all the other senses separately, which seems quite logical. All senses start to deviate dramatically when perceiving emptiness and humidity of the library, maybe because it is such a quiet and dry space.


Average space experience OVERALL CONCLUSIONS DIAGRAMS Most of the diagrams show us that perceiving solely with sight is deviating the most in every space, especially in comparison with the separate use of smell and touch, which least deviate taking in account all the spaces. ‘Experiencing architecture is multi-sensory; qualities of space, matter and scale are measured together by the eye, ear, nose, skin, tongue, skeleton and muscle. Architecture strengthens one’s sense of being in the world, and this is basically an enforced experience of self. ‘Instead of mere vision, or the five classical senses, architecture involves several realms of sensory experience which interact and fuse into each other’ (Pallasmaa, p.41). 7. EXEBITION SPACE In the exhibition space, throughout most of the questions, hearing is least deviant from perceiving with all the senses. This might mean that hearing helps us to describe a place in a richer way than other senses do when used separately.


Workshop 1C

Movement in space


Diagrams exercise


Theory This workshop will be about moving in space. Motion is a way of exploring a space. We are aware of our kine sphere. That is the total volume of the body’s potential movements. We never just walk into a wall, for we are aware of the confinements in space. While being in motion our senses adjust fast to the changing perspective and give us information about our position in space. On the other hand we can imagine space through our faculty for geometry. With our brain we can make a mental picture of the room. When we are in quick motion and our senses are disturbed (for example: we can rotate so fast our vision cannot keep up with our movement and all we see of our environment is a blur), we can use our mental picture of the room to position ourselves. Does it matter what kind of space we are in? Do clear geometrical forms facilitate moving through space, for we can imagine them easier? Reference and orientation in space has not only to do with geometry. When standing in a white box, you don’t know what is front or back after having turned around fast for a couple of times. If one wall was red, then it was easier. Marking space for orientation can be done with colour, light, objects or even sound and texture. What characteristics make it easy for us to move in a space? Are there also elements that make it less favourable for us to move around? Is it primarily the conceivability of geometric form or are the reference points more important for orientation? All the questions mentioned in this introduction are explored in this workshop. Not only architecture, also dance is an art form that thinks in spatial shapes. In dance geometrical forms are used to communicate about movements and to perform movements according to the communicated system. This entails that the system is clear for both the choreographer and the dancers. The system is based on the fact that we can imagine geometrical forms and that these forms in every person’s imagination is the same.

The choreographer that developed this system is Rudolf von Laban (1879 – 1958). His theories of choreography and movement served as one of the central foundations of modern central European dance. Source: book Body space expression (1987) by Vera Maletic (pp. 5863)

Figure 1:’ The octahedron and the cube in Laban’s theory of spatial orientation’ from the book Body space expression (1987) by Vera Maletic (p. 61) Another choreographer that more recently worked with mathematical ideas is William Forsythe (1949 - ). His ideas have inspired the architect Daniel Libeskind and vice versa. He has created architecture and performance installations commissioned by Daniel Libeskind in Germany. Forsythe understands the body in space as a geometric construct. A ballet dancer is trained to imagine lines, planes and vectors in order to know where he or she is in three dimensional space. Source: Dancing and drawing, choreography and architecture by Steven Spier in The Journal of Architecture (Volume 10, nr. 4, 2005) (pp.349-364)


THE SPACES This part of the workshop will take place in three different spaces. The first space will be tutor room 1.2 at the faculty of Architecture. The second space is the auditorium in the NAI and the third space is in front of the auditorium. THE WORKSHOP The workshop will start with a few minutes of relaxing the body in the space. We will lie on the floor and do some breathing exercises. After that we will do three small exercises in the space: CHOREOGRAPHY This exercise consists of some simple movements that form compositions in a space. These exercises are done with the whole group together. While walking in configurations we will explore the way we feel in the space. IMPROVISATION This exercise will be about imagining lines in the space. The lines can be drawn from visual points in the space (like windows, structure, corners, curtains, radiators) or imaginable points (the middle of a wall, the centre of the space). Lines can be diagonal, parallel, perpendicular but also circular. ORIENTATION We will stand in the middle of the space and turn around fast for five times. When we are finished, we will walk to the ‘front’ of the room. Give attention to the time it takes you to orientate in the room. What was it that made you know what your position in space was?


Spaces


Feeling & Focus


Findings

PERCEPTION OF THE SPACE

When the group was walking towards the middle of the space, it seemed to everybody that the space was getting smaller. When walking away from each other again, the space seemed to widen again. This effect was felt in each space. When an amount of people is standing together facing each other, the space at their back seems not to take part in their experience as much as the space they see in front of them. It looks to people as if the space is smaller. When they see the space without the people in the middle, the space seems to be bigger. But when the people are standing at the edges of the spaces, it seems as if the space is bigger, because the people are a measure for the perspective in the space. “Understanding architectural scale implies the unconscious measuring of the object or the building with one’s body and of projecting one’s body scheme into the space in question” (Pallasmaa, p. 67). This workshop showed that we can also use other people to measure the space. When walking towards the middle of the spaces, the shape that was formed with the group had the same overall shape as the space, except for space 2. In space 2 the group was standing in the shape of the space that can be formed virtually between the columns.

A lot of people felt uneasy to move around in space 2 because they could not imagine the geometry of the space. When walking backwards people could not make an estimation of the space at their back and therefore had turn their head while moving backwards to see how much space they still had. Kenzo had the idea that in space 2 the people were looking more up to the roof, for the roof was on some points high and in other parts of the space it was low. So the roof was defining to a great extend the shape of the space. Orientation in the space For most people it was easier in space 2 to walk to the blue wall then to the window. The main reason that was mentioned was that the window is transparent and therefore more difficult to see as an object. The objects you see through the window can be taken as reference points, but they are further away than the window itself and therefore it was more difficult for most people to determine the exact location of the window itself. Another reason mentioned was that the glass wall was too big, too long and therefore not enough defined as an object to orientate on. Some people get disorientated when their eyes are closed and they have to spin around. This was the case in space 3 because the two opposite long walls were exactly the same and the two end walls were to far away to refer to.

VISUALISATION OF THE SPACE In space 2 several people had the tendency to define a part of the space to do the exercises in. The columns and the low ceiling were determinative for the forming of the virtual space within the space. When spaces have a too complex geometry (space 3), people are tended not to use the whole space, but only a clear geometric part of it. The part that is in their immediate vision field or a more clear geometric space that virtually can be drawn between elements of the whole space. On the other hand, elements that are standing in the space (like columns or tables or other objects) can make it more difficult to imagine the geometry of the space.

Reference points in the space People are tended to take the same kind of reference points into a space. Some people took primarily columns as reference points, some mainly recurring lines on the wall. Repetitive elements in a room therefore make it easier for people to draw virtual lines in the space. In space 3 some people had difficulties to find reference points, for the walls were plain. They changed their direction of view towards the ceiling or the floor to find points there. Especially in this space people were tended to take the same kind of reference points again and again.


Most of the reference points people took where vertical lines. The reason for this, most people mentioned the fact that vertical lines are on our field of vision, no matter whether we look more up or down. In contrast, horizontal lines are either low, high or in the middle of the wall. We cannot form points in space to walk to, for we first have to decide whether we take the left end of the line, the right end or the middle. In space 3 Warner started to take the middles of horizontal lines, because there was a lack of vertical lines or points in the space. Feelings in the space In space 2 some people mentioned that they felt more relax to stand under the low ceiling then under the heigh ceiling, where other floors looked upon. They had the feeling to be more safe under the low ceiling. A lot of people said space 2 was very chaotic and noisy and therefore unpleasant. Space 3 was the most popular space (nine people against two for space 1 and two for space 2). People liked the clear geometry, the fact that the space was empty (not any objects) and the floor was nice to walk on. The reasons that the two people for space 1 had was that this space is more in proportion than space 3. Space 2 was mentioned by two people because they found the space interesting, for it was such a strange space.


Conclusions WS 1C When moving with a group in a space the presence of the group influences the way we perceive the space. “Modern architectural theory and critique have had a strong tendency to regard space as an immaterial object delineated by material surfaces, instead of understanding space as in terms of dynamic interactions and interrelations (...) Architectural space is lived space rather than physical space, and lived space always transcends geometry and measurability. “ (Pallasmaa, p. 64). The shape of the space influences the shape the people form when standing in a group. “A building is encountered; it is approached, confronted, related to one’s body, moved through and utilized as a condition for other things. Architecture initiates, directs and organizes behavior and movement. A building is not an end in itself; it frames, articulates, structures, gives significance, relates, separates and unites, facilitates and prohibits. Consequently, basic architectural experiences have a verb form rather than being nouns” (Pallasmaa, p. 64). Vertical lines are easier to use as reference points then horizontal lines. In spaces with strange, undetermined geometry, people are tended to visualise a space within the space that has a clear geometric space. This might be one of the reasons that not all the parts of the strangely shaped space are used.

The histograms ‘Doing the exercise’ and ‘Imagining the geometry’ show what also has been said by several people; that it is easier and more pleasant to do movement exercises in spaces that do have a clear geometry. On the other hand, it is harder to do the exercise in a space that has too much objects in it (see also histogram ‘Finding reference points’). There is not a direct link between the difficulty to find reference points and the effort it takes to imagine the geometry of the space (see histograms ‘Finding reference points’ and ‘Imagining the geometry’). The orientation in a space can be hard because the shape of the space is not clear or because the walls are all too much the same (see histogram ‘Orientation’ and the findings on orientation). The feelings in the spaces do not influence the focus that is possible in the space (see histograms ‘Feeling and focus’). Note that this experiment has been done with only architecture students and that their perception of the spaces is coloured by their education and specific cognition. Pallasmaa, J. (2005): The eyes of the skin, architecture and the senses. London.


Experience workshop at Netherlands Architecture Institute