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 travelers 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.’



HEARING and interior spaces

Post 383 – by Gautam Shah



Hearing reveals multiple facets of architectural spaces through a very comprehensive experience. The experience is not focussed like vision, but substantially includes many convergent audio ‘effects’. This effects have clueless or orientation-less feel. Visual knowledge is more metrical compared to hearing which is abstract.

A normal person relies more on directed visual clues than diverse audio feeds. This is because visual information can be perceived and processed faster, whereas the audio cognition needs sustained understanding of the space making elements.

abandon_alley_architecture_black_city_corridor_dark_derelict-1358067.jpg!dThe audio information in a space is made of: 1. Direct sounds, 2. Reverberated sounds from different distances, surfaces and directions and, 3. background noises that enter the space. The hearing becomes more complex, when sounds get mixed to depress or enhance certain frequencies.


The space making elements, such as materials and their surfaces, the shape and the size, format the space hearing experience. This was realized from primitive times. Architectural spaces were exploited (rather than designed a fresh) for the hearing related inherent space facilities. This was possible with sporadic success. Acoustics for new spaces were always an unpredictable exercise.


Continuous use of known spaces, sizes, and shapes give a predictable audio experience. Religious buildings, amphi theatres, meeting halls, were such oft repeated works. The visual and tactile knowledge of the space helped mould it for hearing. Opera and concert spaces were fine tuned for such combined sensorial experiences.



Opera and concert halls over a period have fashioned the architecture of sound transmission exploiting the shape and size, beyond the surface qualities. Parabolic ceilings, inclined walls, convergent or conical forms were involved in interior articulation of the space. Even then within a space there were great many locally variegated experiences. A church, concert hall or assembly hall always had few pockets of poor hearing.


In all large spaces the spatial experience was moulded by direct and reverberated sound synchronized with relevant visual clues. Greek and Roman theatres were designed to bring the audiences closer to the stage so that audio-visual experience would become one. These were reinforced with loud and emphatic dialogue delivery, use of extra ordinarily flocked dresses and highly articulated postures and gestures. These traditions also continued in dramas, operas and other musicals. The techniques were, however, not freely applicable in sombre religious ceremonies.



For Peter Zumthor the 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.’ Corridors or passages are considered eerie places, not just due to poorly lit and unexciting architecture but the sound quality.

glacier-and-hiker-725x482Hearing nothing is like hearing through sea shell that re-transmits all sounds baffled by a wall and its labyrinth form. The Pantheon or cave recall this ‘absence or absorption’ of sounds. Architectural acoustics was once about managing the outside noises and inside sounds. The former was solved by isolation from surroundings, and the later by spatial modulation.Trees barriers

Modern technology of hearing, deals with the presence and absence of sounds, in the work places. One may not desire to eavesdrop a colleague talking to another co-worker or a wife at home. In highly insulated work space the complete absorption of such noise is as much a problem as the inability to suppress such sounds. These are now managed by adding additional sounds (white noise) through special type of speakers. The speakers output sounds in set frequency range to cancel (sound making – white noise) out the irritant sound presences.