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Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1942/13903

Title: Designing Architecture for More: A Framework of Haptic Design Parameters with the Experience of People Born Blind
Authors: Herssens, Jasmien
Advisors: Willems, Bert
Heylighen, Ann
Froyen, Hubert
Janssen, Paul
Engelen, Jan
Desmet, Goedele
Paterson, Mark
Roeland, Myriam
Wagemans, Johan
Issue Date: 2011
Abstract: Studies in architectural theory and design research have greatly multiplied in recent years. However, relatively little research has been conducted on the multisensory experience of the built environment. Even if it is generally agreed that we experience the built environment with all senses, few architects bear in mind the haptic, olfactory, gustatory and auditory sense while designing. Design research as well as architectural theory refer to a visual bias that is culturally ingrained. As Nigel Cross states, architects and other designers know, think and design in a very visual way. Moreover, vision is often quoted as the spatial sense par excellence and our Western civilization is said to be dominated by vision. Nevertheless, if architects design with more attention to non-visual senses, they can contribute to more inclusive environments. Indeed if an environment offers a range of sensory triggers, people with different sensory capacities are able to navigate and enjoy it and are free to rely on the available sensory information. Rather than implementing as many sensory triggers as possible, the intention is to make the built environment accessible and enjoyable for more people, in line with the objective of ‘Inclusive Design’ (U.K.), ‘Design for All’ (E.U.), or ‘Universal Design’ (U.S.). In this research we use the umbrella term ‘Designing for More’ (DfM) for several reasons: first to stress the non-stop iterative nature of an inclusive design process; secondly to avoid confusion amongst and prejudices associated with some terms; thirdly because this research adopts a cultural approach in which people with a disability are involved as experts in the research process. The research design is considered to be a DfM-process in itself and is set up around four tracks:• a theoretical track• an empirical track• a design track• an evaluation trackThe user/experts for this research are people born blind because they have learned to be more attentive to non-visual stimuli. The main objective is the analysis of haptic experiences in the built environment with the help of people born blind. In order to identify haptic experiences in the built environment, we adopted a qualitative research approach, following the principles of Grounded Theory. Qualitative research is considered as an interdisciplinary field in which theory and practice can interact. Within this overall objective, the aim of this research is to develop a framework of haptic design parameters to support architects in implementing haptic experiences during design. In this study haptic design parameters are defined as variable characteristics that can be decided upon by architects during the design process, and the value of which is a determinant of haptic characteristics of the resulting building or space. Haptic spatial perception involves all the perceptual processes related to the sense of touch. In relation to the built environment, we argue, haptic perception involves active as well as dynamic and passive touch. Whereas active and dynamic touchrequire movement from the body itself, passive touch arises from movement in the environment.Theoretical TrackThe theoretical track outlines three main parts that discuss three subthemes: the search for experience in architecture, the meaning of experience as a form of expertise for people born blind and the characteristics of haptic experiences. The theoretical track concludes by giving an overview and linking these three parts together into a theoretical framework that represents our approach towards a haptic experience in the built environment based on the expertise of people born blind. This framework outlines haptic experience in the built environment as the result of three mental processes. These mental processes take place at three different levels: the level of perception, the level of memory and the level of meaning. The three levels will offer a foundation for the analysis of the empirical track.Empirical TrackThe empirical track investigates how and why people touch and partly reveals what is touched. In order to obtain richer material we chose to combine multiple methods to collect data on haptic qualities and obstacles in the built environment: 1. Home visits with adults born blind2. Photo-ethnographic tours by children born blind3. Focus Group Interviews with caregivers of people born blind. The findings of these theoretical and empirical studies are threefold. On the one hand haptic qualities and obstacles regarding the built environment are identified. In addition, the results inform us on people’s haptic perception of the environment. Finally, the different research methods turn out to be relevant for sensory research. Design TrackTriangulating the key results of the empirical studies, and confronting these with the findings of the theoretical track, resulted in an outline of a framework for haptic design parameters. The theoretical and empirical results show that haptic experience in the built environment relies on an interaction between context, experience and design parameters. This results in a framework that consists out of a main grid representing the context. In context we distinguish the modes of touch (active, dynamic and passive), the perceived affordance of the planes (moving, guiding, resting) and the difference in sensitivity of the body parts. Every possible combination in this main framework consists its own values for the design parameters linked to the experiential values.The latter are placed on an octant that shows the interaction between the different levels of mental processes that involve a haptic experience in the built environment: level of perception, level of memory and level of meaning. The values of the design parameters can change depending on these axes of perception, memory and meaning and of the values of the context. The haptic design parameters are described by material properties and geometrical properties. We consider texture, elasticity, air permeability, specific gravity and temperature as material parameters. Curvature, orientation, configuration and size are geometrical parameters. Additionally we propose some design techniques that rely on well-known spatial design practices in architecture to assess the haptic experiences of a design project. Evaluation TrackAs the framework of haptic design parameters is considered as a design itself, user/experts are involved to evaluate it in terms of content as well as usability: 1. to assess the wider relevance of the haptic qualities covered by the framework, a focus group interview was conducted with people who are not visually impaired. The group was composed of people with different backgrounds, ages and conditions, including young and older people, a pregnant woman, a wheelchair user, a person with autism, etc. The findings of the focus group interview suggest that the framework of haptic parameters resonates with the experiences of different users; 2. to assess the usability of the framework and techniques for design practice, a workshop was set up with professional architects. Feedback suggests that architects quickly picked up the idea of the framework, and recognized its relevance, but that the framework’s representation challenges us with a sensory paradox: while the parameters question the visual bias in architectural design, they are meant to be used by designers, who are used to think, know and work in a visual way. We conclude with the highlights on the theoretical,empirical and methodological results. In addition we reflect upon possible directions for future research.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1942/13903
ISBN: 9789089130198
Category: T1
Type: Theses and Dissertations
Appears in Collections: PhD theses
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