How Faces Make Places – Scotland

Our forthcoming book, Face-i-tecture, How Faces Make Places, shows the power of face-like facades to win us over—worldwide. Up first, a trip to the Scottish Highlands, a cool, wet destination, where finding shelter becomes important after a day-long hike. Far from the bustle of Edinburg or Glasgow, visitors find it here in “bothies” which are unlocked huts, open to all, free of charge – like the one below.

Note this bothy’s welcoming ‘face’; you can easily ‘see’ its windows as eyes, the door, a nose and the steps, perhaps, as a mouth.

Run the photo through 3M’s Visual Attention Software (VAS), a biometric tool that approximates where people look at-first-glance, or in the first 3-to-5 seconds, and you start to see our animal nature at work. VAS predicts how we take things in subliminally, before conscious-viewing comes online, creating images where people look, called Visual Sequence Diagrams that track first, second, third and fourth fixations or focal points:

Note how the symmetrical windows draw us in immediately, then the building edge and roof line. And what happens if the bothy loses the eye-like windows? We Photoshopped them out to see – and learned fast:

The building becomes less welcoming. We simply can’t look at it the same way. The bothy doesn’t draw us in as easily. The heatmaps, below, which aggregate viewing data, glowing reddish where people look most, fade to black in areas ignored. Note how the windowless cottage is more in the black, with our fixations directed to its roof; while the one with windows catches our attention drawing our eye more evenly over its façade. This makes it seem more there, present as though waiting ‘to see’ us. Which is, of course, exactly what you’d want to see and feel after hours of hiking the Highlands – a bothy waiting for you to show up!

. Welcome to face-i-tecture! – that under-acknowledged yet powerful attribute of the built environment that make us feel at home in a place without our realizing it. 😉

Hikers in the Highlands – click on images to enlarge

For more on face-i-tecture, check out:

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