This paper presents a study of selected visualisation and investigative methods that facilitate the exploration and expression of human emotions and perceptions within real world environments during the design development stages of a project, repositioning exploration and visualisation in spatial design education. It puts forward an outline for an iterative inquiry around human experiences in order to assess the value of alternative cognitive tools for spatial design students in higher education.
Established tools such as orthographic drawings, axonometric projections or scale models equip spatial designers with the consistency they need to investigate and represent physical attributes of space but don’t always constitute the best methods to explore the perceived environment, even though it is a key contributing factor to the way we experience our surroundings. It is therefore in the interest of design educators to investigate complementary interpretations that enable students to consciously explore less tangible aspects of design such as emotions and multi-sensorial modalities.
Projects developed using tools and techniques ranging from digital 2D and 3D image making, photography, film, animation and performance provide an insight into the possibilities offered by existing visual technologies as dynamic study devices of human experiences and contribute to the generation of alternative processes in spatial design education.
Anthony Gormley ‘Model’ White Cube Gallery, Bermondsey, London. 02/01/13
Study based on J. J. Gibson perceptual system and Joyce Malmar and Frank Vodvarka ‘Sensory Design’
Duration of the visit: 45 minutes in the main installation’s gallery space
Chart completed: after an initial familiarisation with the environment (2nd visit) √
Participation: Active √
Visual system: the rust coloured surfaces of the installation and soft grey and white of the gallery creates a contrast of warm against cool and intense against dull. The visible patterns and soldering joints on the sculpture hint at the construction method leaving a memory trace of when the installation was assembled. The scale of the oversize exterior matches that of the gallery that contains the work but contrasts sharply with the intimacy of the interior chambers. The changes of light levels from very bright on the outside to semi-darkness or complete darkness on the inside reinforce the sense of mystery and anticipation I felt when walking across the threshold of the installation. It’s not possible to get a complete view of the installation on the outside because of its size. It almost covers the entire length of the gallery, leaving only a narrow passage between the surface of the installation and the back wall of the gallery. As a result it is difficult to get a sense of the work as a whole and its depiction of the body. I had to concentrate to identify body parts. A superficial evaluation resulted in seeing only cubic containers assembled together in a seemingly random manner. However the narrow passage at the back creates a sense of anticipation and mystery about the other side which is only revealed upon crossing the passage and stepping back from the work. The same material used throughout forces me to focus on surfaces, form and void.
Auditory system: the light and dull tone of the sound vibrations in the very large room of the gallery contrast sharply with the deep, intense and loud tone experienced inside the installation. The contrast is especially strong on the threshold, when coming out of the echoic enclosed space feels almost soothing. Inside, variations in tone and intensity occur depending on the size and shape of the chamber, the smaller the space the deeper the sound, as well as on the material used in contact with the metal. Hitting the metal with a hard object such as the heels of my shoes creates vibrations that travel through the metal surfaces and resonate inside the structure. Voices also reverberate against the solid surfaces. It is therefore difficult to pin point the source of a sound with accuracy.
Taste-Smell system: neutral, similar to the rest of the gallery.
Basic-Orienting system: navigation occurs as a continuous run around the sculpture with only two openings and only one of them being an actual entrance. The entrance and the exit are the same so I had to walk back where I came from, forcing me to re-experience the event. Little is revealed about the circulation and the entrance remained hidden until I arrived almost directly in front of it. No information was given to help locate the entrance to the installation upon entering the gallery so I had to make a decision whether to go right or left. I chose right, which impacted on my experience of the event because I’d almost been around the entire model before I found the entrance while those who chose left found it sooner before they could see the other side. This means entering the sculpture with a clear mental picture of the outside (right) or only a limited one (left). Inside with no variations in materials, form, scale and light from openings are the main visual cue to aid orientation. A few symbols left from when the sheets of steel were in storage could provide visual cues akin to a basic form of signage although the installation is small enough to learn its layout fairly quickly.
Haptic system: the hard solid steel didn’t feel cold because it looked warm and because the temperature of the gallery was controlled to be neutral. It was fairly smooth with only a little texture. The metal felt heavier when I touched it than when I looked at it, possibly due to my own expectation about the material and also because the scale of the installation is broken down into smaller cubes. Next to the metal, the polished concrete floor appears softer than it actually is. Kinaesthesia: The spacious exterior allows for unconstrained movement. The interior is a continuous run of chambers of various scale and light levels. As a result I became hesitant, slightly disorientated and forced to slow down in places, even bend down where the height was reduced to a minimum.
Temperature & Humidity: neutral. Controlled independently by the gallery.
Time Perception: I didn’t think about time while exploring the sculpture. The focus is on discovery and navigation and because the mind is busy mapping he environment time seems to stand still.