By understanding the human body and mind and by engaging the sensory systems, architecture can create a powerful experience. Using concepts in visual perception such as depth cues and texture gradients, this piece offers a chance for the urban worker to break their routine schedule by literally stepping out of their comfort zone to better appreciate a greater spatial awareness, a sense of risk, and shift in worldview.
Studio: Architecture II, Dartmouth Colleg
Instructor: Zenovia Toloudi
Skills: site research, rapid prototyping, iterative modeling, technical drawing, Rhino, 3D visualization, rendering, user feedback
Many public spaces Manhattan, including Washington Square Park (the project's site) lack intentional spatial stimuli and risk. Flat planes, benches, and guard rails limit users' engagement with space.
Meanwhile, people are attracted to areas that explore height. Spaces like these offer stimulating (rare, yet valuable) experiences in public space.
An awareness of our visceral responses to space can result in a better understanding our perceptual systems and a more effective navigation of our surrounding environment and people.
Heightened Awareness was conceived by identifying and manipulating three key parameters that facilitate a deeper connection to depth and space.
Small physical models or 2D images alone would not be enough to communicate an instinctual appreciation of the structure's height. To study iterative successes and failures, I created composite images to simulate depth with a 3D viewer. This was used to examine responses to views of extremes of the aforementioned parameters, such as low and high as shown below. Experiences were rated on three scales: familiar/unfamiliar, comfortable/uncomfortable, and safe/at risk.
The experiment's responses averaged just over 1 out of 5 on those scales. “I feel more elevated, though I’d like it to be more extreme.” Results reflected the need for further exaggeration of the studied parameters, prompting adjustments to the design of the structure, such as inclines and wall placements.
Contrast and awareness
By varying height, verticality, and confinement, Heightened Awareness creates spatial relations that are askew from the users' day-to-day experiences. Contrast between what is familiar and what is extreme facilitates a better understanding and appreciation of our own perceptual systems. An augmented awareness of our surroundings should improve the ability to navigate the social environment of public space.