As we witness in different forms of art and crafts, there is always a provision for interpretation for the viewer’s thoughts. Making it truly unique for each individual to experience art so personal and intimate to oneself that every takeaway from the same piece of art is going to differ substantially. The same is in the case of architecture (as architecture is a functional form of art). The knack of luring a visitor from one space into the other and making it a non–monotonous and interesting transition is quite a challenge in itself. In this article, we study how the intuitive perception of a habitable milieu affects its overall experience and how that differs from one person to another.

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Spatial perception has a noticeable contribution in deciding the ‘aura’ and ‘energy’ of a space. The bare simplicity/level of complexity in which space/series of spaces can be accessed and navigated helps trigger respective desired emotions.

Some factors that could be altered to achieve the desired perception of space are:

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  1. Orientation
  2. Wayfinding
  3. Circulation
  4. Spatial dimension

For instance, the Jewish Museum in Berlin by Daniel Libeskind is a notable example in the realms of triggering emotions using spatial perception as the key feature.

The key design approach towards this structure was to make the visitor experience a certain emotion of guilt/sadness/havoc/chaos that the Jewish felt during the Holocaust. It is a bare combination of walkways and staircases that take you through experience within itself.

Spatial Perception in Architecture - Sheet1
©libeskind.com

1. Orientation

The rather unconventional misfit of a structure is oriented with a very strong concept. It is said that the residences of the Jewish population were connected on a map by drawing a line. From which, the derivation of this shape was achieved. It also further reflects in the chaotic experience this structure aimed to provide.

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Spatial Perception in Architecture - Sheet2
©libeskind.com

2. Wayfinding

Due to the connected feature of orientation, the wayfinding is affected to give a rather puzzling result. The socio-cultural and political belonging of the Jews was a historical and dark one. The negative connotations that all their deaths carry are strongly symbolized in this experience of a museum.

Spatial Perception in Architecture - Sheet3
©libeskind.com
Spatial Perception in Architecture - Sheet4
©libeskind.com

3. Circulation

The ongoing experience of a visitor is further strengthened by the sudden exposure of ‘awe’ features like triple-height walkways or other features like tin floor installments of dismal faces to portray strong emotions. The pathways are deliberately kept relatively narrower than usual to add to the same.

©libeskind.com
©libeskind.com

4. Spatial Dimensions

You can witness sporadic and unfamiliar spatial dimensions and shapes within the structure. The sudden entry into a large space while walking through a narrow pathway, or the regular intervals of vertical fenestrations and balconies to further interestingly monotonize and have a unified structure that goes so much beyond mere functionality and caters to the real game-changer w.r.t designing a space. That is perception.

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The emotion, although typically negative, may differ from person to person. And that highlights the way different people show variation in linking their emotions to their surroundings. For example, a person that has lost a loved one to the Holocaust or someone aware of the context in which this structure was built may always associate this structure to that incident and have a deep emotional connection with it. However, an unknown passer-by or a layman that does not know the history behind the structure may only be flabbergasted by the scale of it, or notice the irregularities in shape but the uniformity in overall design without necessarily linking it with strong emotions but their mere liking or disliking of the structure. (subjectivity)

However, it is always a tricky situation when dealing with perception-centric public designs. When catering to a bundle of people coming from heterogeneous walks of life with different personal tastes and preferences, there can never be a foolproof way to design a building that resonates with everyone the same way, both qualitatively and quantitatively. On the contrary, a privately used structure like a resident or a personal garage can be designed with precision, keeping every desire of the end-user in mind. This way the emotions linked with the place will architecturally be portrayed beautifully. And some will be built while the structure ages with its user.

Now as we addressed how the masses perceive a space or building, it is important to throw some light on individual spatial experiences. As we spoke about the “walks of life” people belong to, it is also a known fact that no person remains stationary in life.

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“With age, comes experience. And with experience, comes varied perceptions.”

Innocence resides where experience doesn’t. And vice versa! An innocent and pure reaction/opinion for space comes where experience hasn’t made a place for thought yet. Thought defines, refines, and redefines an opinion.

So as it is not possible to have the same reaction at one time from 10 different people, it is also not possible to have one reaction 10 different times from the same person. And that is the beauty of emotions that link with architecture. (Or is it?)

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Author

While establishing the co relation of romanticism with words and architecture, Mohammed Bilal Shariff aims to use RTF as a medium to put forth a piece of his mindset with a desire to ignite new thoughts and perspectives in the reader's mind.

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