Architectural Cognition

Coming from a human-computer interaction background, my approach to architectural experience is to understand it as an interaction. This means that every encounter between you and a piece of external environment is a two-way process:

You have the ‘power’ over it - you can decide to move around an obstacle, or jump over it. While searching for a room in an unknown buiding you can take the left, right, or the middle corridor. You decide.

That’s one side of that two-way process.

The opposite side is the impact that the architecture has on you. By its look and shape the obstacle might ‘suggest’ you to jump over. Even though you have the choice and you have the ‘power’ over the actions you take while exploring the environment, the enviornment can make some of these actions more likely than others. The left corridor, out of all three, might be just a bit wider, and straigher - and so a person searching for something would be more inclined to take it. We rarely realise these little things work on our decisions so often. The real problem occurs when they are not the consciously designed elements of the environment, but rather a random side-effects of the design process.

Just like any other interaction, the really successful environmental interaction ought to be seamless. Ideally, we shouldn’t (or needn’t) even know that the environment has affected our decisions. We could simply get to where we want and do whatever we need. Without knowing exactly how it happened.