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Arnold Wilkins • 5 years ago

Architecture that respects the statistics of natural scenes is more comfortable for people to look at and there is scientific evidence to support this statement.

Our visual systems evolved to look at scenes from nature. Natural scenes have a characteristic structure called scale invariance. Imagine a map of the coast. The number of wiggles in the outline of the coast remains the same whatever the scale of the map you are using. If you double the size of the image, it has the same amount of detail. Double it again, and again the detail is the same. That’s scale invariance. The brain has evolved to process images with scale invariance and it can do so very efficiently using only a small number of neurons at any one time. The brain has more difficulty processing stripes (which are such a common feature of modern architecture) because they are not scale invariant. The brain becomes less efficient, and it uses more oxygen. We can measure the oxygen usage with neuroimaging and we find that the patterns of stripes that people find uncomfortable to look at use more oxygen.

Some people, those who suffer migraine, find the patterns particularly unpleasant, and these people have an abnormally large oxygenation of the brain when they look at them. In fact, the larger the number of symptoms of visual discomfort the greater the oxygenation of the brain.

So both in terms of the differences between images and the differences between people, images that are unpleasant induce a large oxygenation of the visual cortex of the brain. We can perhaps think of the discomfort as protective or homeostatic, in much the same way as most pain is – it acts to protect the organism. Perhaps the discomfort protects us from too great an oxygen usage. After all, the brain consumes 15-20% of the energy used by the body, so we need to reduce the energy consumption when we can.

Now we said that stripes are unnatural, and uncomfortable and cannot be processed efficiently by the brain; they use more energy. Stripes are everywhere in the modern urban environment.

It turns out we can use a computer to predict how uncomfortable images are to look at just by measuring mathematically how much the image departs from scale invariance. We can do this for a wide variety of images. The algorithm is described in a recent paper by Olivier Penacchio and myself and will shortly appear in the journal Vision Research.

We examined the achitectural design of the exterior of residential buildings and demonstrated mathematically that over the last century design has become progressively more and more striped.

Why are stripes such a common feature of design?

Designers like designs that are striking on the eye, perhaps this is one reason why.

Perhaps it is also because it is simpler and cheaper to build things using repetitive elements. But we need to think again about stripes, and avoid them when we can, making our urban environment visually more like that in nature. This will make design more comfortable on the eye for neurological reasons that we are just now beginning to discover.

Marcus Busby • 5 years ago
Marcus Busby • 5 years ago

naturally, the image presented above is only a conceptual model. To be realized, it's form would follow extant landscape features, built or natural. Fractal planforms can also be more flowing. Below is a link to an example of the similar, but more organic fractal planform. I used the simple 6-point geometry in the above example for ease of making calculations and for presenting the model. Here is a link to a similar but more naturalized fractal plan form: https://bentrubewriter.file...

samuelagboola • 5 years ago

The buildings you venerate Charles were as much dictated by limited understanding of materials and engineering as any natural harmony. Nothing is more organic, carbon neutral and 'human scale' than a mud and wattle hut.

The application of modern materials, knowledge and technology to creating buildings which serve us all well is simple. Design everything for the rich and then give it to all. There are plenty of tall buildings in New York fit for a king.

The shame is that so many buildings are compromised deliberately in order to punish their occupants for being poor.

Dilmeet Grewal • 5 years ago

(Interesting as it is, I'm having to repost my comments here ... as again the AR has a new link for this article. and my original comments must be somewhere on a copy of this article. )

1. There exists no argument of the Golden age. Kahn to Corbusier, all said the ancients are my only master. A "Big Rethink" is a junk notion. Architectures fall from grace to mundane bastardisation of glass, and technology amounts to nothing. One hundred years from now all seemingly great architects currently about will look like a part of a silly story of how architecture fell from transcendence and slowly started its way back up.

In 5000BC people designed settlements (Dhola Vira) that carefully directed rain water to separate tanks, while flood water was directed to separate tanks. If those people were to come and see the world's settlements today they'd wonder what we accomplished in 7000 years.

2. There is no esoteric argument and concept of front-line architecture of today. The fact that many attempt to be famous by playing tune to market forces doesn't make them significant, let alone close to achieving a level of mastery worthy of architecture.

From Sumerian to the Greeks, Romans, Islamic civilisations, a master code existed. The temple of the Mound to the Vatican has a geometric master DNA enshrined. Monuments DNA pretty much exists. https://www.academia.edu/48371...

3. Millennia of craftsmanship, mastery in the arts of architecture were all dumped in the so-called fad of the industrial revolution. Out went the unwritten code known to the masters. Cars and machines came in and the city was for cars. Cars became ubiquitous and now we realise cars don't make a beautiful place to live in. Our absorption of the technology curve will be written in history as a mass dementia.

4. The only thing new is the unprecedented population. It'd be best that we could show the ancestors from 5000 BC that we match and exceed their planning sophistication, using technology as a tool and not a defining element.

Dilmeet Grewal,
The Thought Studio

Marcus Busby • 5 years ago

City design using fractal geometry and biomimicry principles combined with sustainable agriculture http://www.scribd.com/doc/2...

SP • 5 years ago

A 20th century man's opinion on 21st century architecture. I wouldn't have expected much more...

yasushi nakamura • 5 years ago

"To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often." by Winston Churchill

NigelReading|ASYNSIS • 5 years ago

Context has to be balanced with the Contemporary, the Complex with the Contradictory. Venturi's National Gallery Extension (which I had the privilege to work on as a student), is indeed a vast improvement on the ABK "carbuncle," of that - there's no reasonable doubt.
The above criteria reveal why. But we must also remember that for all the mannerist jokes, the vanishing, morphing Corinthian pilasters, the false perspectives in the interiors, that the Sainsbury wing also has its brutalist, modernist tropes; from which ironically, the neo-classical elements seemed to emerge in resonant superposition.
My former tutor Jeremy Till maintains "Mess is the Law"- to which I would also add an orchestrated, symphonic "More for Less" and "(Good) Form follows (True) Flow.
Charles and the Modernists are both right, in extreme and mean ratio; and the Asynsis principle explains why and how (as just shared on TED and via the UKTI GREAT Festival of Creativity-RIBA Talk! series), nature's (and our own) architectures - best synergise simplexity. How design in nature (consciousness and culture), emerges optimally, analogically from entropy, how the art of architecture can best learn from the sciences of thermodynamics and complexity.
As Alain de Botton might say, exemplary architecture is design as revealed geometry, "the relationship of relationships" (universally); yielding applied philosophy. http://about.me/asynsis