Augmented Visibility in Architectural Space: Influencing Movement Patterns

Varoudis, Tasos (2014). Augmented Visibility in Architectural Space: Influencing Movement Patterns. PhD thesis The Open University.



The rapid development of computing associated with our modern era has resulted in exciting and innovative incorporation of digital technology in architectural design. However, this presents challenges for established theories of spatial analysis, such as space syntax, developed by Hillier and Hanson.

The research presented in this thesis identifies and addresses a lack of knowledge concerning the impact of digitally manipulating physical architectural environments by introducing perceived visual depth into them. The research contributes to the development of space syntax theory by showing that the introduction of perceived visual depth in architectural space impacts on people’s behaviour, and that space syntax theory needs to be adjusted to account for this phenomenon.

The overarching hypothesis of the experiments detailed by the thesis was that ambient displays can be introduced into physical architectural settings to augment the perceived visual depth of a space by virtually linking and extending physical space towards another real or virtual space. This augments the topological and visual relations of a space which influences how people use and move within such settings.

To investigate the hypothesis a series of experiments was designed and conducted. A pilot study showed that manipulating the perceived depth of a wall through digital projection had a significant effect on people’s use of the space.

The first of the main experiments showed that the position of an ambient display, acting as a virtual window through the wall upon which it was placed, had the capacity to influence people’s behaviour in space. This was established by designing a T-shaped corridor which participants entered from the bottom and were therefore required to make a left or right-hand turn decision to access a target area beyond the corridor. Whilst the environment was held constant the display was placed in one of three conditions, central, left, or right. The analysis showed that people’s turn-based decisions were affected by the position of the display.

The second experiment used the same architectural setting but held the position of the ambient display constant in the central position whilst altering what it displayed in three conditions. The display either acted as a realistic virtual window, showing what would be seen if the display was a real window or it skewed the perspective of the image by manipulating the vanishing point towards the left or right. The turn-based decisions of participants entering the corridor were recorded and the results showed that they were significantly influenced by the manipulation.

The experimental data showed that digital displays can act as virtual windows which alter spatial relations in a simple architectural space. This knowledge, combined with an awareness that current methods of spatial analysis cannot account for the impact of introducing digital depth into architectural space, show that theories must be adapted to ensure their ability to model behaviour in hybrid architectural environments which incorporate digital technology.

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