The Role of Expertise in the Perception of Architectural Space

in Research Culture in Architecture


- Spatial perception is a fundamental cognitive skill developed lifelong. In architecture, this skill is taken for granted. However, evidence from decades of psycholinguistic research shows that spatial cognition is not universal but depends on factors like native language, gender, or expertise. This interdisciplinary study aims to identify patterns of visual attention characteristic for architects. Results of an eye-tracking experiment provide evidence that architectural expertise influences the distribution of visuospatial attention: In outdoor contexts architects pay more attention to upper parts of buildings; in indoor contexts they pay less attention to people. In both contexts, architects allocate more attention to the spatial layout itself compared with a nonarchitect control group. We interpret these differences as arising from architects using the grammar of space to decode spatial information. It is desirable for architects to implement the insights from research on spatial cognition when designing spaces, since their own spatial perception differs from that of the users they are designing for.

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