Archive for the ‘perception’ Category


The image annexes space

July 8, 2010

A few years ago, an exhibition at the Netherlands Architecture Institute entitled Spectacular City: Photographing the Future posited the thesis that, in the words of photographer Frank van der Salm, the best architects around today are photographers.

This is one metaphor for understanding the image’s primary role in the practice and perception of architecture today. As mentioned before, architectural photography—where space and the image intersect—reveals the radical flux acting on the constituent practices of architecture and photography today. The architectural image—which was the basis for the trade press, lifestyle publications, and monographs which nourished different aspects of the industry—has now broken nearly every bound of medium, format, and expository context. It is now increasingly independent from its original commercial purpose, and like an autonomous emergent intelligence is part of the process of demoting its ostensible benefactor (the architect and client) and casting a new, indispensable role for its creator and technician (the architectural imager).

The implications break in two directions. The first is found in extravagantly prodigal print manifestations—OMA’s Book Machine publishing laboratory and its 40K-page supermonograph.

The second is in the post-virtual, optical/perceptual hybrid space of the holographic architectural model, such as the autosteroscopic 3D tiles from Zebra Imaging.

When global modernism was emerging at the same time that cheaper and better photomechanical reproduction became available, the image became the primary currency of this architecture. Then, the goal of architectural photography was clarity and iconic singularity. Today, the opposite is true; the kaleidoscopic cloud of architectural images speaks to the decline of the architectural monograph in codex book form, and the image’s surprising annexation of architectural space itself.



The legacy of Personal Space

June 29, 2009

personal-spaceAs mentioned here earlier, a longer analysis of Robert Sommer’s Personal Space: The Behavioral Basis of Design over at Design Observer.

Sommer conveyed that even modern people inhabit and protect space like animals and members of territorial tribes; the book is full of terms from anthropology and animal behavior study like “attack, “defend,” “invade,” and “victim.” An exemplary passage describing these innate, universal behaviors (with cultural factors imparting some distinctions) still has the power to surprise upon the recognition that these “victims” and “invaders” are, under similar conditions, the readers themselves. . . .

And more to come regarding this landmark book soon, including a gallery of never-published photos from Sommer’s research.

Personal Space forty years on.


The sonic torsion of personal space

June 26, 2009

PS cover

I’ve been researching the career and writings of Robert Sommer, the polymath psychologist who gave us the durable concept of personal space. His book of the same name, published in 1969, presented research he had conducted and synthesized from outside sources across a wide array of disciplines, including sociology, communication, psychology, perception, criminal and carceral studies, education, animal behavior, architecture, and urban planning.

I’m hoping to publish more about this 40-year-old book elsewhere soon, but until then, I am reminded of how influential this book still is when I find recent research like this: via Mind Hacks, evidence that people listening to music through their headphones have a warped sense of their personal space. Impairment of spatial relations perception due to cellphone use while driving has been known for a few years, so this is no surprise. The research Dr. Sommer pioneered is ongoing.

(Thanks for the tip, Jenn!)