#31 | arc00 – Architecture: correlation between human body with space and time

Hi guys,

This time, I’ll tell you about my master thesis. My goal is to create a method to heal people who live in confined space by creating a therapeutic environment. Why do I want to work on such a complex thing? For many reasons but mainly because I know what it is to feel alone, by yourself and far from your home even if I’ve never traveled in Outer space. I want to make a method to heal people not only in space but also on Earth. Of course, my master thesis will be made in a short amount of time, so I won’t be able to talk about how I can export the method on Earth. Anyway, I will focus on the: “therapeutic architecture for the mental health of astronauts in Outer space” thematic.


Astronauts and people experimenting in confined space tend to develop stress, loneliness, frustration, irritation and others negative feelings over time. There are two ways to heal someone: with a palliative care for the first one (medicine for example) or a preventive care for the second one. In this thesis, I’ll focus on preventive care because it is important to heal before a pathology occurred. However, a palliative care is necessary too if you want to be more flexible to an unexpected situation.

Architects can have a part in the design improvements even if they are not engineers or psychologists:
– because design affects human behaviors (example: Einstellung effect).
– perception of space can modify social relationships (example: a small place tends to bring people together, and a large place to repel people from each other).
– design ergonomy can affect body health (example: you don’t want to sit on an uncomfortable chair).
– you don’t want to live in a place you don’t like.

How to help these people and what methodology do I use?
It is a quite simple methodology to be honest but the process is complex to analyze:

1) Use all data of the previous Mars simulations on Earth and make a database (NASA, Mars Society, ESA, etc.)
2) The data will gather three pieces of information:
– Design part involving negative feelings.
– Pathologies or symptoms involved due to design failures.
– Palliative cares used by the crew on missions.
3) Analyzing what architectural parts don’t work well on the actual design of simulation.
4) What therapies are used in the pathologies, and what design can be used to answer them?
5) Make a generic design that can be improved over time and be used as a healthy environment.

Of course, I don’t pretend to be able to make a perfect environment in 4 months, but It will be a design suggestion on the subject. I will look on psychologists and engineers works with an architect position. That way, the therapies can be used in a different way into architecture and a design process.

Personal space

Today I read a book called in French: “l’architecture vivant: introduction à l’espace architectural premier” written by Jean Cousin. What I’ve learned from the first chapters, are about the environment and human behaviors.

The two subjects are defined by a tight relationship, an ergonomy based on the movements of the body in a physical context. It acts as an intermediate frame between human and architecture but this kind of ergonomy based on the movements is dangerous by the rigidity and non-adaptive environment of each individual. Why? Because architecture is NOT the outside world and human needs to be in contact with the outside. That’s why architectural functions and shapes of the space needs to be built together and not separated.

Ergonomy = shape + function.

  • Space affects the human body, but behavior can change depending on the functions of the living area. For example, the behavior will not be the same if it is an isolated individual or a group of individuals in the same space. A lot of factors change human behaviors, so the book will focus on primitive human behavior.
    The first one is the appropriation of space: topology and self-awareness are the qualities of humans. The notions of proximity, separation, succession, continuity, closure are used to bring order in spatial perception. At 11 years old, kids gain mastery of the physical plan and intellectual perception of the environment. The book quote Arthur Koestler: “When we give a hit with a hammer, we can feel the head of the hammer hitting the nail as a perception, but we should perceive instead the sensation of the impact of the hammer through the handle to the hand“. In fact, we got the perception of our body in the spatial frame rather than the sensation of the object through our body. We are not IN the space or IN the time anymore, but we are a PART OF the space-time frame.


  • Space evaluation is something that is proper to human behavior. You think you know the object, and you think you can represent perfectly something but it is not the case. We visualize in fact an intermediary object in our mind but NEVER the real object before we draw a perspective drawing. The real object is created in a subjective way by all our senses. A well-known experience of spatial perception by Muller-Lyer proves it: the optical illusions are a great part of our lives.
fig.00 – Experience by Muller-Lyer on the spatial perception.  “AB”distance is the same for the two lines above. (source – “L’architecture vivant: introduction à l’espace architectural premier” by Jean Cousin)

  • What I mean to explain you is that the metrical distances did NOT matter in architectural space creation (except in the technical plan), it is important to trick perception of the individual to make them think that they are closer or further from an object. We got now three types of metrics for Heath Licklider: physical scale, human scale, and proportions. The work of scales and perceptions is a job for the architects.

fig.02 – Scales perception explained by Heath Licklider

  • The first author who has described the notion of “bubble” is Edward T.Hall. It is what we called later by “personal space”. Each individual moves in a different way, so depending on these movements each person got their own psychological boundaries. For example, Bachelard said if we are in a room, our personal space IS the entire room because we got used to it. When we move to another place, our bubble will take some time to adapt to his environment and will take the shape of our context. The shape of the bubble is not defined by the visual perception but by our memory, and to get a reliable memory of our personal space, we need personal objects to identify ourselves in the spatial frame. Fear can get our personal space smaller.

What did I learn?

  • Opposition concept of spatial reference and sensitive reference in space and time.
  • Space evaluation is never metrical and is based on optical illusions.
  • Three kinds of scales that we need to take care if we want to trick individual perception.
  • The concept of memory and personal objects for the personal space.


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