Sketching space perception is a technique based on the use of drawing to help find the qualities in-between user and space: subjective values within the human environment, personal spatial experiences and perception. By collecting those individual spatial habits through drawing, personal values are lifted above the level of the individual with the aim to integrate those collective values within the further development of that space. Below I explain the choice of drawing by three examples out of my practice: Fruitbowl, Section of Home and Deel&Ulrum.
I am aware of the different roles and positions taken within projects. these roles vary from a personal and artistic point of view to projects wherein we position ourselves as external observers to projects in which we turn with all the other factors and parameters in a circular research process in which feedback of the future is past on to the past.
Personal and individual implication_Fruitbowl
If I would be asked to draw coming home, I would draw a generously filled fruit bowl on top of a a small tablecloth. Drawing forces ourselves to shift from the existing place we are attending, into our own perception of that place by creating mental images. While drawing you oblige yourself to look attentively to that space, you become aware of your perception of place. When I see a fruitbowl now, I think of home.
Long distance participation_Section of Home
Participation is useful to lift these personal values into a participatory process of the development of a certain place. By drawing and therefore ‘building up’ a certain place through thoughts, a certain mapping of sensitive experiences and perception occur.
This form of participation grows out of silence and thoughts about space into a dialogue with themselves or other participants to give them insights in the impact of the environment and the competence to modify it, whether by themselves or professionals.
Integration and co-experts_Werk&Ulrum
A drawing offers you an overview but by looking closer details and subtleties are added to your observation. The same thing can be said about our perception of a place. The longer you stay somewhere, the more you will absorb from that place.
Drawing is useful in the design process because it shapes our thoughts in the same way that for instance a chemist uses symbols to structure his thoughts. It is a circular process in which we try to communicate our thoughts and ideas. Drawing as a sort of language in which we design, communicate and interact, not only with ourselves but also with anyone willing to participate to and influence the dialog of drawing.
“Architecture has traditionally understood space geometrically and considered the human in it as a body. Today, the focus must by contrast be on strengthening the vantage point off the experiencing individual and underscoring what it means to be mindfully present in spaces. This vantage point will open up a new level of creative potential for architecture.” – Böhme.
“… I could imagine that architecture education would offer courses on ‘architectural anthropology’: students would identify and analyse primordial experiences of architecture. This could be a new sounding board for atmospheric and meaningful architecture. To me, most contemporary architecture is fairly empty of meaning in this sense.” – Pallasmaa.
I do agree with Gernot Böhme and Juhani Pallasmaa who where invited by the journal of architecture Oase for ‘a conversation about atmosphere in architecture’ together with Peter Zumthor for the release of 91st issue called ‘Building Atmoshphere’. Zumthor on the other hand continues to strive that it is the role of the architect to add ‘atmoshphere’.
The journal and the conversation indicate clearly that architecture continues to forget that the user of space actually adds something to the designed space, not only because of the fact that he is physically present but also because he projects his own mental space. This interplay between user, place and space has been the subject of a lot of investigations and projects. In the past experiments have been done to concretize participation of the user on but architecture but much less on how perception could influence architecture. Within the field of psychology, for instance, research on perception is not new, but it is rarely placed within a spatial framework. It stands to reason to follow those investigations, but this research challenges the application of perception within a traditional design practice. How do we manage this? How do we, as designers, ‘integrate’ the user as the forgotten participatory designer? These are questions and statements on which they are less explicit. It is for this blind spot that my practice started developing this approach.