SPACE PERCEPTION -through seeing, hearing and touching

Post 630 –by Gautam Shah



Space perception is realization based on three faculties of Perceptions, namely seeing, hearing and touching. First two of these are bi-nodal, and allow us to perceive an extra dimension of the space, whereas touch is multi-focal, but operates as local sense. The information is received through spatially separated sensors, but complex neural integration allows the three to be perceived in mutually balancing experience. Absence or deficiencies of one or few are substantially overcome through such assimilation. These sensorial experiences (seeing, hearing and touch) persist in a space for a while, and so prolong and reinforce the experience. The experience persists, when the main happening is active, through the fading period, and after the expiry of the original causation.


Earth Sphere, Science city, Kolkata > Wikipedia image by Biswarup Ganguly

Space perception is a process of becoming aware of the relative positions of the own-self, surrounding objects, and environmental effects. Sense of near-far, distance, orientation, datum, are part of space perception. Space perception of objects in movement and changes in the environment offer cues to direction and rate of change. Space perception occurs naturally and virtually. It occurs substantially through making-up by the past remembrances. And so though it is substantially predictive, surprises, deviations and deceptions do occur.




Rainy Day Boston > Visual depth and dimensions of perception > Wikipedia > ART by Childe Hassam (1859-1935)

Space perception offers dimension, orientation and direction to the space. The dimensions are perceived in terms of body sizes and capacities. Orientation suggests the position of the causation in front, back, up, below, or sideways. “The horizontal, vertical, and sagittal planes divide space into various sectors: something is perceived as ‘above’ or ‘below’ (the horizontal plane), as ‘in front of’ or ‘behind’ (the vertical plane), or as ‘to the right’ or ‘to the left’ (of the sagittal plane). The Horizontal and Vertical have universal justification of the gravity, reinforced by the fluid levels. But it is the sagittal plane or the sense of left and right, which is self centred.


Elgin Cathedral ruins Scotland > Pixabay image by misterfarmer Deutschland

The depth in space is a perceived notion. Visually it is sensed by the stereophonic vision and fading over (only larger) the distance. Depth is perceived by scaling in scenic perspective. Visual depth perception is also a process of learning. Seafarers, aircraft pilots, mountaineers, desert travellers have extraordinary sense of space distances. Similarly architects, embroiders, watch repairers have coordinated visual and touch depth perception.


Woman carrying head load looks as big as the tree due to absence of foreground-backgroud clues > Wikipedia image

Aural perception of space dimension, orientation and direction operate differently. The two ears create stereophonic effect for richness of sound, but unlike vision do not lead to distinct direction or orientation of the space perception. The sense of the dimension, though is more accurate, as sound fades remarkably strongly even in the shorter depth. Aural perception has more deviations and deceptions. Depth or distance perception is due to the loudness and pitch, both affect little late (sound of lightening), but reinforce the information offered through the visual perception. Changes in pitch ( Doppler effect) of a moving object, defines the depth.


Pipe organs are conceived in terms of the space, sound and visual placement > Taiwan National concert hall at Taipei > Wikipedia image by : Alton Thompson

Touch perception of objects is governed by recognition of the edges or remarkable intermittent features. Touch perception is texture recognition combined with energy transmission (temperature, electrical, magnetic, vibrations etc.). These operate at touching or very close distance, but are highly variable. The perceiver and the perceived (object or an organism) both exchange the energies to form the perception. The touch perception plays very little role in perception of spatial dimensions in spite of transiting between edge to edge, or other features of the surface.


Streograms are stereophonic image or animations that combine Left and Right frames showing slightly different visual angles to form 3D perception

Clarity and Consistency of visual perception are very important features of experience. It is accepted that visual clarity depends on the distance, quality (angle, strength, contrast, colour) of illumination and physiological condition of the perceiver. Beyond these obvious parameters other factors are foreground-background, glare, framing of the view, other distractions. Consistency of visual sensation derives from field size, movement of the perceiver and within the scene, distractions, aberrations. Clarity and consistency, together depend on subjective aspects, such as the intent and duration of the perception.


Audio perception (and expression) when accompanied by Visual perception, mutually reinforce each other > Wikipedia image

Clarity and Consistency of aural perception occur in terms of the echoes, reverberation, presence-absence of background noise. It also depends on the dominant range of operative frequencies. Clarity is affected when one cannot decode a scrambled or garbled noise. This happens in large halls and open layout offices, where one subconsciously cannot decipher the message, and tries to interpret it. To reduce such irritations, ‘white-sounds’ -a background or masking noise are added to the space. Hospital rooms and commercial spaces with round the clock operations pose different aural profiles at different times of the day-night, ‘white sounds’ reduce such variations. Consistency of level and quality of sounds allows one to ‘fathom’ a space more effectively.


Tactile Floors for Nagoya-daigaku Subway platform > Wikipedia image by LERK

Clarity and Consistency in touch perception are important in space perception, so far these are demarcations of space zones. For persons with imperfect perceptive capacities (blind, deaf, old age, infants, sick) touch becomes an important faculty to reinforce the space extent. The consistency of touch is governed by duration and use of limbs that show better reception to touch.


Polyphemus, the one eyed mythological character was supposed to be an Iron Smith and used the one-eye vision for work accuracy > art by Johann Heinrich Wilhelm Tischbein 1802

 Peter Zumthor outlines (Atmospheres, p. 29) that, ‘Interiors are like large instruments, collecting sound, amplifying it, transmitting it elsewhere. That has to do with the shape peculiar to each room and with the surface of materials they contain, and the way those materials have been applied.’




CONTEXT -Issues for Design -12

Post 629 –by Gautam Shah


Context consists of parts that are often remote in time and space, yet emerge to form a whole. Context emerges as a connection, reference, realization, placement, ground, environment, framework, setting, or situation for manifestation of a concept, object or event. The context is seen through some commonality, styling, location identity or pace of occurrence.


Netherlands’s proverbs with scenes illustrating over 100 proverbs > Wikipedia ART by Pieter Brueghel the Elder 1559

Context manifests as an explicit and implicit placement. In literature it is placed in preceding or following word, sentence, paragraph, chapter, book, through a reference or hyper link. In spoken delivery, like a speech or recitation, it is immediacy of timing is used to make the context evident. Literary context is enforced through repetition of a word, line, stanza, or use of proverbs, anecdotes, rhyme, synonyms and antonyms. Emphasis by loudness of speech, measured delivery, rhyming, etc. provide a clue to the listener to recollect, or look-out for the contextual setting.


Scott Bradley’s set design for August Wilson’s Fences in the Angus Bowmer Theater > Wikipedia image by The Oregon Shakespeare festival

For performing arts the context becomes an extension for the time and space. Here the context is implicit in temporal (beats) and explicit in spatial (static and dynamic posturing) definitions. These are enriched by delays, distancing, proximity, framing and merging. The settings, lighting, costumes, sound effects, story or narrations provide explicit context.


Outdoor set on Allen Elizabethan stage at Oregon Shakespeare festival > Wikipedia image by Amy Richard

For Graphical presentations, the simultaneity of explicit-implicit contextual reference becomes extraordinarily potent. The contextual information, in Art and Craft works are often unintentional or too casual. The observer places the work into not only a new realm, but through different process of sensorial perception. The complexity of the context is through allegorical representations, where the real meaning is deeply buried under several layers of conversion. In this sense, the context is neither personal nor public, but rather mystical. The titles of works are irrelevant, yet are very potent.


Delhi’s craft museum > Flickr image by chopr

The styles of work or the manner of expression provide a historical connection to the attitudes, choices and conditions of an era. The style of work is contextual as a wider affirmation to colour pallette, theme, manners of representation, inclusion or exclusion of contents, composition, etc. Style of work is a realization and its conscious application. The connection between the original work (prime) and application is strong enough to cause confusion as to which one is reference, and what is the context.


Le Dejeuner (1739) a rocaille  Interior of a French bourgeois family in 18C  > Wikipedia ART by Francois Boucher 1703-1770

Within the works of Art like murals, the story line is repeated in several microcosm images or continued over or several frames. Here the context is provided by elements like the relevance of the theme, background, characters, colours, embellishments, time sequencing of the narration, etc. The decipherable contextual references help devotees to re-live the events and sometimes reinterpret it differently.

Rosace nord de la cathédrale de Chartres

Northern Rose window of Chartres cathedral > Wikipedia image 


Microcosm of Shikhar at AhalyaBai Temple MP India > Wikipedia image by Rakeshnandi1990

Murals and extensive works of art are conceived for the architectural setting, so are inconsideration of natural light and artificial illumination, angle of view, distance of viewing, intervening architectonic elements, and thematic arrangements. The theme and parts have relationships of mutual referencing, and so make sense as a holistic composition. Architectural murals on ceilings, walls and floors have context of scale for the characters, visual perspective of the scene and the white (unoccupied) spaces.


Queen’s apartment in Royal palace of Madrid > Wikipedia ART by Francisco Bayeu y Subias 1734-1795

Architecture is perceived as surfaces, spaces and as composition of architectonic elements. All three individually and collectively are contextual for the functions, style, form, site, cultural, social, political and financial setting. When one or few of these context conditions reestablish their relevance, a revival occurs. The renaissance (literally meaning ‘Rebirth’ in French) was a period of nostalgia for classical antiquity. Renaissance was the context to describe and adopt something from the history. It was largely an explicit context, compared to more subtle and implicit context of the Gothic period. Renaissance saw development of realistic linear perspective by Giotto di Bondone (1267–1337) as a context of a window into space.


Framing as a context > adoration of the Magi and Solomon adored by Queen of Sheba > Wikipedia ART by Giulio Clovio 1498-1578 

Ground and gravity are the most important context for a built form. The context of gravity is implicit in the horizontal and explicit in the vertical. The deconstructionist building must conform to the gravity as much as pyramids will do. A catenary structure bows to the gravity. Buildings have the context of the site. The site connects the building to not just the physical elements like the neighbourhood and the services, but also non physical matters like micro climate, local cultural and political conditions and nature of administration.


Gravity defiance > Puente de la Mujer (Spanish for ‘Women’s Bridge) is a rotating footbridge at Buenos Aires Argentina > Wikipedia image

The changes in site conditions make a building irrelevant, but a well-designed building can rejuvenate a dying or stagnant neighbourhood. Old buildings have very fragmented or diffused context, and such sites look more out of context with ‘manicured lawns’.


Interior of the Royal Ontario Museum > Michael Lee Chin Crystal lobby showing merger of Old and New > Wikipedia image by Benson Kua from Toronto Canada

Architecture operates in simultaneity of context where a positive assertion of affirmation, justification, comparison, is juxtaposed with a negative reference by contrast, differentiation, distinction. These occur as contexts of foreground-background, framed-unframed depiction, large-small, light-heavy, visible-diffused image, interior-exterior, dark-light etc.


Indian Village Home setting > Pixabay image by nasircoolboy1

Contemporary architectural creations defy the context of ‘unexplainable’ traditions. These are replaced by being ethically responsible to the surroundings, or designing a form-functionless impressionistic entity.


This is the 12 th article of 20 topics series on ISSUES for DESIGN