Experience

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A four dimensional model of experience according to Pine and Gillmore (1998).

Elements of place

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Elements of place can be described as the arrangements of events that occur in places. Events are the result of interactions between people and place. The elements of place can be part of the event,  the internal direction, enclosure, internal area or entrances.
In this diagram we describe the different elements of place:
  • Internal area (2)
  • An enclosure (5)
  • Centrality (1)
  • Direction of Activity (3 and 4)
  • Entrances (6)

Below we can see an illustrative comparison of the structure of different places. The model with components of place, the elements interposed over St. Peter’s Square, Vatican, and over a meeting in a park.

Sense of Space

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Studies undertaken on rats to understand the cognitive process of spatial perception have revealed that the brain responds when the animals move to certain locations in an environment. Patterns of brain activity were recorded in correlation to the location of the rats.  ‘Place Cells’ are the term to describe where the brain activity occurs when triggered by an external stimulus.

This perception of ‘sense of space’ is the product of a careful creation of elements combined to provide an optimum psychological fit between people and their physical surroundings. An area of our brains called the parahippocampal place area (PPA) plays an important role in the recognition of our scenes rather than faces or objects. Further studies into the correlation between space and activation within the PPA is integral in better understanding why external factors trigger psychological reactions. There is only one institution that is concerned specifically the link between external stimuli and the body and this is The Academy of Neuroscience for Architecture (ANFA) that was created in 2003 to explore ways to link the research of neuroscience to the practice of architecture.

Perception

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Perception is simply the process of attaining awareness or understanding of sensory information. The balance of past experiences, culture and genetics form a sensorial picture that shapes our perception of situations. Multiple interpretations can be drawn from one sentence, picture or building, it is how we interpret the sensorial and past information that dictates its perception.

Sensory memory has the ability to recall impressions of sensory information retained from previous events. When exposure to poignant stimuli  are built up into a perceptual picture, these stimuli are stored as memories. In a perceptual picture, a plethora of senses are stimulated and therefore when a sensory memory is recalled synaesthesia is activated. Synaesthesia is the term used to describe the ability for your brain to perceive one sense through another. For example, to look out outside at a cold day (visual stimuli) and shiver (haptic stimuli). The sensory memory has the ability to not only recall the sense stimulated but the synaesthesia connected.

At the level of architectural experiences, or more specifically the human response to places, it is clear that the perception of space has a great responsibility in generating a change in our mood and performance. We know that architectural settings can have profound effects on people. We all experience a change in mood, stimulation or elation when entering an environment. An immense amount of visual, auditory, olfactory and gustatory stimuli passes through the sensory system and sent to the cortex in microseconds. Resulting in a perceptual picture in our opinion of our environment.

Integrated Environmental Language

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Our goal as designers is to promote specific behaviours through the interaction with our proposed idea.  Therefore our brief as a designer should be to consider what physical and environmental parameters will promote these behaviours.

Behaviour is affected by the perception of our environment which in turn is a product of the balance between the environmental medium of the space. Each environmental media has an impact upon the sensorial qualities that it evokes within the occupant. Each design discipline (e.g.: acoustic, lighting, materials) has an impact upon the next. For example: acoustics are affected by the materiality chosen, which in turn are integral to how the light reflects within the environment.

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