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Aesthetic and Emotional Appraisal of the Seattle Public Library and its relation to spatial configuration

Research output: Contribution to conference - Without ISBN/ISSN Conference paperpeer-review

Publication date31/10/2013
<mark>Original language</mark>English
EventNinth International Space Syntax Symposium 2013 - Seoul, Korea, Republic of
Duration: 31/10/20133/11/2013


ConferenceNinth International Space Syntax Symposium 2013
Country/TerritoryKorea, Republic of


How does the spatial configuration of a building influence aesthetic appraisal and emotion? Previous studies on wayfinding have included studying the effects of spatial layout and complexity, visual access, and the degree of spatial differentiation on users’ cognition and way finding behavior, yet have rarely assessed the user's aesthetic and emotional evaluation of a building. Space syntax methods have been widely used for quantification, e.g., of how socially integrated and how navigable space is and complemented by behavioral data, and information about users’ individual wayfinding strategies and cognitive abilities, space syntax has been a strong analytical tool in wayfinding studies. It is an open question to what degree the space syntax methodology can also capture aesthetic judgments or the emotional impact of a public building on visitors and inhabitants. These aspects of a building’s impact are clearly relevant for design research and practitioners alike and research data is necessary to develop the corresponding discourse. This paper contributes a set of qualitative data on subjective user evaluations from a wayfinding study in the Seattle Public Library to support the ongoing dialogue between the space syntax community and cognitive scientists. The building was selected because it has previously been subject to research (e.g., Dalton, Kuliga & Hoelscher, 2013; Zook & Bafna, 2012, Dovey & Dovey, 2009), and received both high praise and strong criticism, which illustrates the buildings' value as a research site. In this study, participants selected six out of 76 adjectives from an adjusted version of the Microsoft product Reaction Card Desirability Toolkit that, in their opinions, best described the Seattle Public Library. In a semi-structured interview, participants were further encouraged to verbally reflect on the experience they had during six wayfinding tasks in the Seattle Public Library, to describe their wayfinding difficulties, and to elaborate on the adjectives chosen from the reaction card task. A standardized questionnaire assessed their aesthetic and emotional appraisal in terms of general evaluation, attractiveness, security, and privacy for key locations in the library (entrance levels and meeting rooms) and the library as a whole. Participants chose adjectives such as impressive, creative, stimulating, and innovative to describe their experience in the library, but also inconsistent, overwhelming, frustrating, intimidating, and stressful. This paper aims to develop an understanding of how these two clusters of mixed user opinions are related to the building’s spatial structure. A visibility graph analysis (VGA) was conducted to identify where and how difficulties in understanding the library’s unconventional circulation arise for library visitors. This paper makes a contribution to the field by suggesting methods for linking qualitative, and often highly emotive, data to objective spatial analysis.