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Architecture research &

Cognition meets Le-
Cognitive principles of
architectural design
Research on human spatial memory and navigational ability has recently shown the strong
influence of reference systems in spatial memory on the ways spatial information is accessed
in navigation and other spatially oriented tasks.In this paper, the role of aligned and
misaligned reference systems is discussed in the context of the built environment and
modern architecture. The role of architectural design on the perception and mental
representation of space by humans is investigated. It is concluded that a buildings
navigability and related wayfinding issues can benefit from architectural design.

1 Wayfinding and Architecture

Tasks such as identifying a place or direction, retracing ones path, or navigating a large-scale
space, most of these spatial abilities have evolved in natural environments over a very long
time, using properties present in nature as cues for spatial orientation and wayfinding.
With the rise humans began to modify their natural environment to better fit their needs.
The emergence of primitive dwellings mainly provided shelter, but at the same time allowed
builders to create environments whose spatial structure regulated the chaotic natural
Architectural design of space has multiple functions. The chapter explains, emphasis
lies on a specific functional aspect of architectural design: human wayfinding. Similarly, when
focusing on the mobility of humans, the ease of wayfinding within a building can be seen as
an essential function of a buildings design. When focusing on wayfinding issues in buildings,
cities, and landscapes, the designed spatial environment can be seen as an important tool in
achieving a particular goal. In the narrow sense of wayfinding, a building thus can be
considered of good design if it allows easy and error-free navigation.
Viewing wayfinding within the built environment as a man-machine-interaction
problem makes clear that good architectural design with respect to navigability needs to..

Navigability needs to take two factors into account

The human user comes equipped with particular Structural, functional, financial, and other design
sensory, perceptual, motoric, and cognitive abilities considerations restrict the degrees of freedom

2 The human user in wayfinding

2.1 Navigational strategies

human navigators are well equipped with an array of flexible navigational strategies, which
usually enable them to master their spatial environment In addition, human navigation can
rely on tools that extend human sensory and mnemonic abilities. Walking down a hallway we
hardly realize that the optical and acoustical flows give us rich information about where we
are headed and whether we will collide with other objects. Our perception of other objects
already includes physical and social models on how they will move and where they will be
once we reach the point where paths might cross. Following a path can consist of following a
particular visual texture (e.g., asphalt) or feeling a handrail in the dark by touch.

Review on research paper Aesha Dave - 1307

Bhagwan Mahavir College of Architecture Architecture research & programming
navigational strategies and activities are rich in diversity and adaptability. Despite the large
number of different navigational strategies, people still experience problems finding their
way or even feel lost momentarily. This feeling of being lost might reflect the lack of a key
component of human wayfinding: knowledge about where one is located in an environment
with respect to ones goal, ones starting location, or with respect to the global
environment one is in.

Basic types of strategies

Proficient signage in buildings and

vector navigation piloting or path-following

Keeping track of ones position during navigation can be done quite easily if access to global
landmarks, reference directions, or coordinates is possible. Unfortunately, the built
environment often does not allow for simple navigational strategies based on these types of
information. Instead, spatial information has to be integrated across multiple places, paths,
turns, and extended periods of time.

2.2 Alignment effects in spatial memory

If an observer learns the location of a number of objects from two different viewpoints he
will be fastest and most correct in his response when imagining himself in the same heading
as the first view. According to the proposed theory, a person mentally represents the first
view of a configuration and integrates new information from other viewpoints into this
representation, leaving the original orientation intact.
accessibility of spatial

spatial relation between the observer The spatial configuration

salient axes and landmarks are often abundant and are used to remember important spatial
information. the perceived structure of an environment influences the way a space is
mentally represented even in cases where the acquisition phase is well-controlled and the
observer is limited to only a few views of the space.

3 The perceived structure of the environment

Natural and man-made environments offer a large number of features that can influence
the perception of environmental structure. Visual features, such as textures, edges,
contours, can serve as the basis for structure as can other modalities, such as sound or smell.

Review on research paper Aesha Dave - 1307

Bhagwan Mahavir College of Architecture Architecture research & programming
In many cases a consensus seems to exist among observers as to the general structure of
natural environments. such as ,
Example 1 : When navigating in the mountains, rivers, valleys, and mountain ranges
constitute the dominant physical feature that naturally restrict movement and determine
what can be perceived in certain directions. Paths within this type of terrain will usually
follow the natural shape of the environment. A recent study confirmed that observers use
environmental slant not only to communicate spatial relations verbally, but also to structure
their spatial memories.
Example 2 : In many instances, natural boundaries defined through changes in texture or
colour give rise to the perception of a shaped environment. Looking at a small island from
the top of a mountain lets one clearly see the coastal outline of the land. Changes in
vegetation similarly present natural boundaries between different regions.

The perceived structure of the

environment by humans

Natural shapes of
Change in textures of environment Geometric relationship

Way finding for birds and humans :

Different species have developed many highly specialized strategies to structure their
environment consistently. For migrating birds, local features of the environment are as
important as geo-magnetic and celestial reference points. Similarly, humans can use
statistically stable sources of information to create structure. When navigating in the desert,
the wind direction or position of celestial bodies at night might be the main reference,
whereas currents might signal a reference direction to the polynesian navigator.
In the built environment, structure is achieved in different ways. At the level of the city,
main streets and paths give a clear sense of direction and determine the ease with which
spatial relations between different places or regions can be understood. In Boston, the main
paths for traffic run parallel to the Charles river resulting in an alignment of built and
natural environment. As mentioned above, the perceived structure of the city plays a large
role in how accessible spatial knowledge is for different imagined or real headings within the
At a smaller scale, individual buildings or structures impose their own structure. Good
architectural design thus enables the observer to extract relevant spatial information. This
feature has been termed architectural legibility and is the key concept in research on
wayfinding within the built environment.

Review on research paper Aesha Dave - 1307

Bhagwan Mahavir College of Architecture Architecture research & programming
4 Designing for Navigation

4.1 Architectural legibility and floor plan complexity

Research linking architectural design and ease of navigation has mainly focused on two
separate dimensions: the complexity of the architectural space, especially the floor plan
layout, and the use of signage and other differentiation of places within a building as
navigational aids. the complexity of the floor plan has a significant influence on the ease with
which users can navigate within a building.

Factors influencing an observers judgment of complexity

The symmetry of plan The number of connections between spaces

An attempt to quantify the complexity of a floor plan analytically, by computing the mean
number of potential paths from any decision point within the floor plan, was devised by
ONeill (1991).

Different schematic floor plans and their ICD index after ONeill (1991).

Five basic floor plan layouts the corresponding inter-connection density index (ICD) is listed
underneath each plan. The basic idea in this approach consists of an increase in floor plan
complexity with increasing number of navigational options or different paths.

Four different floor plans with identical ICD but different perceived complexity.

One theoretical problem with this index, however, is demonstrated in above. Here 4 different
figures depict three different floor plans with exactly the same ICD index. Their perceived
complexity, however, rises from left to right, by making the figures less symmetric, changing

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Bhagwan Mahavir College of Architecture Architecture research & programming
the orientation, or making the figure less regular.
A serious problem with all approaches using figural complexity as a measure, is to treat
the geometrical complexity of a floor plan as indicative of the navigational complexity of the
spatial environment depicted by the plan. As Le Corbusier pointed out almost 80 years ago,
the easily perceivable and pleasant geometrical two-dimensional depiction of a spatial
environment can differ dramatically from the perceived structure of a spatial environment.

These examples strongly suggest that the two-dimensional, figural complexity of a

depiction of a floor plan should not uncritically be taken as a valid representation of the
navigational complexity of the represented spatial environment.

Two similar floor plans with different perceived complexity; Below: Views from similar
viewpoints within the two floor plans (viewpoints and viewing angles indicated above).

4.2 Global and local reference frames in perceiving spatial layout

One of the first steps in the interpretation of the visual form consists of the assignment of a
common frame of reference to relate different parts of the figure to the whole (Rock, 1979).
In general, the distinction between intrinsic and extrinsic reference frames has proven useful
to distinguish two different classes of reference systems.

Intrinsic reference systems: An intrinsic reference system is based on a salient feature of the
figure itself. An isolated experience of a particular part of a building will most likely result in
the dominance of the intrinsic reference system of the particular space. The axis of
symmetry in a isosceles triangle determines the perceived direction the triangle is pointing at
(example A). It also determines how spatial information within the triangle and surrounding
space is organized. Example B shows a situation in which the meaning of the object
determines a system of reference directions.

Extrinisc reference system: Besides intrinsic features of a figure, the spatial and visual
context of a figure can also serve as the source for a reference system. In example

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Bhagwan Mahavir College of Architecture Architecture research & programming
C, the equilateral triangle is seen as pointing towards the right because the rectangular frame
around it strongly suggests an orthogonal reference system and only one of the three axes of
symmetry of the triangle is parallel to these axes. Similarly, example D shows how the
perceived vertical in the visual field or the borders of the page are used to select the
reference direction up-down as the most salient axis within the rightmost equilateral
triangle. When viewing a floorplan, all the parts of the building can be viewed in unison and
the plan itself can be used as a consistent extrinsic reference system for all the parts.

Determining the top of a geometrical figure. Figures A & B exemplify the role of intrinsic reference
systems and C & D the role of extrinsic reference systems. The perceived orientation of each figure is
marked with a black circle.

Based on the distinction between extrinsic and intrinsic reference systems we can now re-
examine one of the main differences between a small-scale figural depiction of a floor plan
and the large-scale space for navigation which is depicted by it. In the case of the small
figure, each part of the figure is perceived within the same, common reference system. This
reference system can be based on an extrinsic reference system (e.g., the page the plan is
drawn on), or a global intrinsic reference system of the plan (e.g., the axis of symmetry of the
plan). The common reference system then determines how each part of the plan is

Review on research paper Aesha Dave - 1307

Bhagwan Mahavir College of Architecture Architecture research & programming