#33 | arc01 – Outside/inside, Objects and Oriented space

Hi guys!

Let’s keep going on the study from the last time with the correlation of human body with space and time. I will write it by heart so I will obviously forget a lot of details…

What did I learn two days ago? In the book: “L’espace vivant: introduction à l’espace architectural premier” by Jean Cousin, I learned how deceiving human perceptions is a great part of our life. We think every distance are reals but in fact, all the metrics are distorted in our own perspective. We took everything we know for granted and we build our reality/personal space with our memory. Our body is a part of this space we build and we use it like a compass to know exactly where we are. This personal space will then adapt to the architectural environment.
But ergonomy by our gestures and our body is only an intermediary spatial frame for us to make ourselves feel at home. It is not exactly a good point to use it exclusively for design because of the rigidity and non-adaptive way to build the inside of our space without taking the outside into consideration. Ergonomy alone, only create a technical solution for human optimization so the way using ergonomy in design required a work on the perception of shapes and functions.
Architecture is the way to make a better perception of space to affect positively our mind and body. Using the needs of individuals to fit their reality and make it better and for that, we need to work on three differents scales: the metrical scale for the technical part, the human scale for the use of our body in space, and proportions to compare an object to another and make a distance representation in our mind.

Today, let’s complete the concept of perception with the concept of :

“Outside/inside” and “object”.

The inside and the outside are important for the spatial reference we used with our body. When we are in a room, we are inside a space, somewhere we can define, interract and give a proper scale and distance even if it is proper to our own perception. We know the inside better than the outside. On the contrary, the “outside” is somewhere undefined because we don’t live outside. However, the “outside” is the place where we can relate because our body needs light, fresh air, contact with nature. When we build something it is important to balance the two concepts of outside and inside.

In my master thesis, it is a big issue: every the Mars simulations work in a confined space environment. Outside is not really defined but in this case, it is even more limited. EVA (Extra-Vehicular Activities) are the only way to go outside and even if the scientists are not in their module, they are still confined in their suit. They don’t feel the fresh air and did not have all the sensory experiences from the environment: roughness of the rocks, smells of the soil, light directly on their skin, etc. That is a big issue for the mental health of the astronauts. The inside take more place than the outside, making function unbalanced in the lives of the member. During the mission FMars 2009, even if they work a lot everyday and got a rough schedule/good training, we can observe an increase in stress for some member of the crew and some negative feelings for the crew at the end of the mission (lonely, frustrated) no matter what kind of activities they do. Eventually, member 5 and member 6 have a great decrease of stress over time, but it is not the case for everyone. All the members except member 3 got a decrease of stress at the end of the last month, and cope very well with stress. Member 3 got an increase all the way. An overall observation can tell us that loneliness is very strong at the end of the mission and a lot of negative moods appeared more obviously at the third month. (c.f – S.L.Bishop,etal.,FMARS2007:Stress and coping in an arctic Mars simulation,Acta Astronautica (2009),doi:10.1016/j.actaastro.2009.11.008)

fig.00 – Individual stress scores across time (Source – S.L.Bishop,etal.,FMARS2007:Stress and coping in an arctic Mars simulation,Acta Astronautica (2009),doi:10.1016/j.actaastro.2009.11.008)
fig.01 – Mood and stress correlation. A positive value is a strong correlation between the specific mood and the stress. (Source – S.L.Bishop,etal.,FMARS2007:Stress and coping in an arctic Mars simulation,Acta Astronautica (2009),doi:10.1016/j.actaastro.2009.11.008)

Objects are important too in our internal compass. In Jean Cousin’s book, the content will not focus on the perception of the objects but rather in the spatial perception because of these objects. In fact, we have two kind of visual perception: our visual field and the visual world. The difference really matters: the first one is the visual perception of significant and useful objects that we can relate to our space. The last one is the real world that we cannot distort even if we imagine it differently or see it with our own perception. In fact, when you see an object, you will try to imagine the depth of his volume but you can’t really know the real depth without taking it first. And when you take it, you know “understand” the real object. Remember in the last article when I talk to you about the importance of objects and memory in personal space? In fact, your personal space will be dangerous and weird if the objects around you are unknown and… Weirdly shaped because it will trick your perception too hard and will affect your mental representation in a bad way. You will feel more comfortable if you know what are the objects around you right? Spatial visualisation will be easier too.

The fact that the shape of the module for the Mars simulations is a cylinder volume design is unconsciously weird because we used to live in a rectangular parallelepiped space. It is a symbolic volume for us, we cannot afford to live in something completely unknown from our daily and comfortable life. In therapeutic architecture, a thesis written by Dr. Evangelia Chrysikou states it is important to give the feeling to be at home to patients. If we want to make them feel at home, it is better to configure the space like a real living home rather than a hospital. Some experimentations to heal people with Alzheimer’s disease in a therapeutic environment, like Hogewey village in the Netherlands prove that this theory is correct. A lot of factors help to configure healthy environment but I won’t talk about it here for now.

Oriented space

Body is oriented in three axes for Jean Cousin. A vertical axis, a front and back axis, and finally a left and right axis. These three axes make a “box”, a rectangular space but I won’t talk about it for today.

The Vertical axis is defined by gravity pulling all object to the ground, this axis is defined by “depression”, the orientation below and “elevation”, the orientation above. It is interesting to use this axis for different reason: the first one because we feel better vertically, when we got a lot of vertical space and on contrary don’t feel good if we are compressed on the ground; and second one because we don’t use to be elevated from the ground, but we like it. We love to have a good panoramic view on the outside, be able to see far away and see if a danger coming to us, and we like to feel “weightless”. Finally, when we walk on a sloping path, we tend to talk about it like a “descending” path because of our perception… But in fact, the path is just sloping.

The Front-Back axis is a way to define our perception of time. In our education, the future is ahead and the past is backward. And when you have a good visualisation of the environment in front of you, you will feel safer than if you don’t know what happened behind your back. That’s why when you play a game like Skyrim and walk in a long corridor leading into the darkness, you will feel warier and will feel the danger up ahead (especially when the path goes down… Erm… I mean, when the path is sloping).

The Left-Right axis (or Transversal axis) defined stability and steadiness. You walk with a balanced area between the left part of your visual field and the right part. It is a way to orientate the skyline (or horizon line) in our visual perspective. We will place every object accordingly. Without it, orientation will be more difficult for us and will lack information.

With the three axes, it is interesting to relate this post to the spherical perspective one. The Vertical axis would be the Zenith-Nadir axis, the Front-Back would be the North and South axis, and the Left-Right, the West-East one.  360° view perception, good ! Of course, oriented space is related to the composition view too… Quite interesting.

What did I learn?

  • The relation between the outside and inside environment.
  • The importance of personal objects and visual field/world.
  • The relation between personal space and therapeutic architecture.
  • The function of the three oriented space axis.
  • The connexion between spherical perspective, the oriented space, and the composition theory.


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