A Talk on Cognitive Architecture – Thursday, November 17th

Interested in seeing how the brain directs your experience of the built environment, subliminally?

Then sign up for this free talk, over Zoom, sponsored by the Consulting Planners of Massachusetts, on Thursday, November 17th at 12 PM EST. It’s open to all.

The talk reviews key biometric tools, including eye tracking and facial expression analysis, that provide ‘a new lens’ to understand the human experience of place and transform our understanding of what people need to see to be at their best.

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BuildingStudy – #4: Call for Participants!

Interested in better understanding how people take in the world? Then take part in this eye-tracking studies, while it’s still up!

Anyone with a laptop or PC with webcam can sign in; on a Mac, link to it from Google Chrome or Firefox (and it’s best to do so in a quiet space with minimal distraction.)

Building Study #4:

https://my.imotions.com/collect/v109/#s/409af02a-27cd-436a-986e-8c64d935b5aa?iMotionsLocale=en-US

These Building Studies use state-of-the-art eye-tracking and facial-expression-analysis software from iMotions.com, a global purveyor of biometric tools for human behavioral research. Once on site, the studies direct you to eye-tracking calibration slides – where you simply focus on a shape as it moves across the screen – before image viewing begins. Studies takes about 4 minutes in total, and conclude with a brief series of calibration slides. It then takes a minute-or-two to upload your collected data.

This research is sponsored by theHapi.org, a nonprofit dedicated to understanding the human experience of the built environment and improving its design through education and research. Feel free to reach out if you have questions, email: contact (at) theHapi.org.

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BuildingStudy-#2: Results out soon!

We’re analyzing BuildingStudy-#2, a biometric building study revealing how we really take in buildings!

Results should be out later this month –

These studies use state-of-the-art eye-tracking and facial-expression-analysis software from iMotions.com, a global purveyor of biometric tools for human behavioral research. Once on site, the studies direct you to eye-tracking calibration slides – where you simply focus on a shape as it moves across the screen – before image viewing begins. Studies takes about 4 minutes in total, and conclude with a brief series of calibration slides. It then takes a minute-or-two to upload your collected data.

The BuildingStudies are sponsored by theHapi.org, a nonprofit dedicated to understanding the human experience of the built environment and improving its design through education and research. Feel free to reach out if you have questions, email: contact (at) theHapi.org

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Study-#1 Results: Eye Tracking Public Architecture

by Ann Sussman, RA + Hernan Rosas

The results are in for Study #1: Eye Tracking Public Architecture. How do people look at these buildings? What immediately draws their eye? Do some buildings make people feel happy and others less so? How does architecture enhance or degrade the public realm?

Researchers at theHapi.org ask these kinds of questions and use state-of-the-art biometric tools to help answer them. This summer, as part of a study funded by the National Civic Art Society, the nonprofit invited participants to take part in a series of studies using iMotions-online eye-tracking software, to learn how we actually look at buildings, exploring both our conscious and non-conscious, or subliminal behavior.

BuildingStudy#1 used images from a 2020 Harris Poll, originally put together by the National Civic Art Society (NCAS), which paired traditional and modern civic buildings and asked: “Which of these two buildings would you prefer for a U.S. courthouse or federal office building?”

Over 2,000 Americans took part in the poll, conducted online, and the answer came back that nearly three-quarters of participants (72%), across political, gender and socio-economic lines, preferred traditional architecture for U.S. courthouses and federal office buildings. Could the survey possibly reflect biological biases that are hardwired in us – as innate as our need for water and air?

Employing the same paired images as in the survey, theHapi.org, used eye tracking to reveal how people actually take in the images. Eye tracking is a key biometric tool that follows non-conscious and conscious eye movements. Frequently used by marketers since the 1980s to better understand and predict consumer behavior, when applied to architecture, eye tracking lets us forecast human behavior in the built-environment, including how quickly people will find a front door, or whether they spend time gazing at a facade. It can even predict which buildings people will easily walk towards, and which they ignore.

For the biometric study of the Harris Poll, also conducted online, using iMotions software, 62 participants looked at the same images on laptops, using web-cams to follow their eye movements taking in each scene on screen in brief, 12-second, intervals.

Here are the findings – the original study images appear first with the colorful eye-tracking results below them:

Pair #1

Eye-tracking data is collected and aggregated to form heat maps which glow reddest where people look most, and fade to yellow, then green, and finally, no color at all, in areas ignored. Note above how the reddest and largest heat map falls on the traditional building, the William Jefferson Clinton Federal Building, (EPA headquarters) in Washington DC (at right). The modern, Robert C. Weaver Federal Building, at left, also in Washington DC (HUD headquarters), did not draw the eye the same way; people barely focused on any of it.

And that was the remarkable, and remarkably consistent, finding this eye-tracking pilot-study revealed; no matter where the buildings were in the U.S., traditional civic architecture consistently drew viewer attention and focus while modern-style counterparts did not.

For instance, in the pair below, the Howard M. Metzenbaum U.S. Courthouse (at right) in Cleveland, Ohio, clearly captured attention; we see how much of the building’s facade glows bright red. While, in contrast, the Sandra Day O’Connor U.S. Courthouse, in Phoenix, Arizona, (at left) barely has any strong red hotspots.

Pair #3

The same thing happens with the U.S. Courthouse in Toledo, Ohio, below left, and its modern counterpart, the Hansen Federal Building, at right, in Ogden, Utah:

Pair #4

Even more so! Note how the modern-style building barely generates a single red dot; this indicates the brain did not direct people to focus on it, and they didn’t! With its repetitive parallel lines, it is systematically ignored and always will be.

These kinds of eye-tracking studies matter and suggest how biometric tools are critical not only for advertising but for assessing architecture – because they show how the human response to visual stimuli happens. Design is about interaction, and with biometrics, we literally ‘see’ how the interaction starts and how different cues prompt very different results. These studies let us piece together and predict behavior in the built environment and help us understand the 2020 Harris Poll findings too.

We can theorize that people tended to favor the civic buildings they most easily could look at; people tended not to favor buildings that didn’t draw their eye and that they could not readily focus or fixate on.

“When you know the mechanism, you can use that understanding in countless ways to drastically improve the human condition,” notes author and MD, Nadine Burke Harris. “That is how you spark a revolution. You shift the frame, you change the lens, and all at once the world is revealed, and nothing is the same.” (The Deepest Well, 2018)

Indeed, this is what we can now do in our time, known as a new Age of Biology, by understanding ourselves better, honor innate human predispositions that acknowledge our subliminal need to connect to our surroundings, and in so doing build better places for people. For in the end, making urban spaces and places that both respect and reflect our biology will make for a happier and healthier public realm. What could be a better goal for our time?

After all, as Francis Bacon, the reknown 17th-century English philosopher, noted:

‘We cannot command nature except by obeying her.’

Isn’t it time to follow the wisdom?

###

Here are the four remaining eye-tracked Harris Poll results: 

Pair #5 compared the Frank M. Scarlett Federal Building, in Brunswich, Georgia, at left, with the U.S. Court House, in Waco, Texas, right.

Pair #6 paired the Martin V. B. Bostetter, Jr. U.S. Court House, in Alexandria, Virginia, at left, with the U.S. Courthouse in Newport New, Virginia, at right.

Pair #2 displayed the National Archives Building, in Washington DC, at left with the Hubert H. Humphrey Building (HHS HQ), also in Washington DC, at right.

Pair #7 showed the Gene Snyder U.S. Courthouse and Custom House, in Louisville, Kentucky, at left, and the Hammond Federal Courthouse, in Hammond, Indiana, at right.

All original paired images ©National Civic Art Society (NCAS); All heat maps ©theHapi.org

Links to recent articles further revealing how human perception of architecture and urban planning happens include:

  • Many posts on GeneticsofDesign.com

And, finally, if you are interested in taking part in future Biometric-Building Studies, do check out:

Other on-going BuildingStudies, #4-#5 here:

#4: https://my.imotions.com/collect/v109/#s/409af02a-27cd-436a-986e-8c64d935b5aa?iMotionsLocale=en-US

#5: https://my.imotions.com/collect/v109/#s/7ce0d33b-c461-421e-973f-c4654307e88a?iMotionsLocale=en-US

We hope to have their results out soon. Feel free to check them out!

Questions: email Contact(at)theHapi.org

Thanks to Estilos Arquitetônicos for translating this post into Portuguese:

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Ux+Design/2023 – 2nd International Conference on Urban Experience and Design in April                                                                              

CALL FOR PROPOSALS:

On April 28, 2023, Tufts University and the Human Architecture + Planning Institute, Inc (theHapi.org) will host the 2nd International Conference on Urban Experience + DesignUx+Design/2023. Researchers, scholars, architects, planners, designers and students, are all invited to submit proposals for presentations. The conference will take place at Tufts University, located just outside Boston, Massachusetts, and builds on the success of The 1st International Conference on Urban Experience and Design in 2019. 

Speakers will explore the implications of ‘embodied cognition’, cognitive architecture, biology, and evolution, as well as new research methods and techniques for using biometrics in urban planning, architecture, interior design, and landscape architecture. The first Ux+Design/2019 conference attracted speakers from across the globe and papers were published in the 2021 book: Urban Experience and Design: Contemporary Perspectives on Improving the Public Realm.  

Today, the design professions and their academic counterparts find themselves in the midst of a historic transition, which in a first, provides a scientific foundation for their disciplines. Neuroscience, evolutionary biology, and psychology, coupled with powerful new biometric tools able to measure the human experience of place, provide new information and methods for understanding, creating and assessing architecture and urban spaces.

This conference will bring together creative thinkers from around the world who are advancing knowledge in these areas, helping to shape a new kind of design practice, one that embraces the unconscious responses we have to external stimuli and is evidence-based.

We welcome proposal submissions (abstracts between 200-350 words) that succinctly explain the specific problem you are exploring, the questions you are asking in your research, methods, data, results, and implications for urban experience and design theory and practice.  Include your name, email address, and present affiliation.  Abstracts are due October 24, 2022.  Notifications will be made on November 1, 2022 and 15-20 page papers will be due by March 15, 2023.   

Email abstracts to: Prof. Justin Hollander, justin.hollander(at)tufts.edu.

Conference hosts: 

Department of Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning, Tufts University, Somerville, MA, USA

the Human Architecture + Planning Institute, theHapi.org, Concord, MA, USA

all images©Becky Chen, geneticofdesign.com

For information on images above, check out: https://geneticsofdesign.com/2020/07/18/the-case-against-all-glass-facades/

?s: email contact (at) theHapi.org

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Take part in theHapi.org’s Building Studies #4-#5, using eye tracking – before we take them down!

Anyone with a laptop or PC with webcam can sign in; on a Mac, link to it from Google Chrome or Firefox (and it’s best to do so in a quiet space with minimal distraction.)

Here are the links – check them out before we take them down:

Building Study #1: (taken down 8/4/2022; results out!)

https://my.imotions.com/collect/v105/#s/08436aa3-324e-4d32-818c-166e77dfea6b?iMotionsLocale=en-US

Building Study #2: (taken down 10/20/2022; results out soon!)

https://my.imotions.com/collect/v108/#s/ea769cdc-e215-4cfa-8de2-1f603063d191?iMotionsLocale=en-US

Building Study #3: (taken down 11/21/2022; results out soon!)

https://my.imotions.com/collect/v108/#s/152c1e7e-20a8-4628-9084-e17d9036e2e5?iMotionsLocale=en-US

The studies below are up, open for participants:

Building Study #4:

https://my.imotions.com/collect/v109/#s/409af02a-27cd-436a-986e-8c64d935b5aa?iMotionsLocale=en-US

Building Study #5:

https://my.imotions.com/collect/v109/#s/7ce0d33b-c461-421e-973f-c4654307e88a?iMotionsLocale=en-US

These studies use state-of-the-art eye-tracking and facial-expression-analysis software from iMotions.com, a global purveyor of biometric tools for human behavioral research. Once on site, the studies first direct you to eye-tracking calibration slides – where you simply focus on a shape as it moves across the screen – before image viewing begins; the studies take about 3-to-4 minutes each. Each also concludes with a brief series of calibration slides. And then takes a minute-or-two to upload data collected.

theHapi.org hopes to be able to share results next month; And feel free to reach out if you have any questions or other concerns; email: contact@theHapi.org

More info on these biometric Building Studies, sponsored by theHapi.org and GeneticsofDesign.com, here:

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Take part in theHapi.org’s Building Studies #2 + #3, using the latest biometrics to understand how we ‘see’ buildings!

Anyone with a laptop or PC with webcam can sign in; on a Mac, link to it from Google Chrome or Firefox (and it’s best to do so in a quiet space with minimal distraction.)

Here are the links:

Building Study #2:

https://my.imotions.com/collect/v108/#s/ea769cdc-e215-4cfa-8de2-1f603063d191?iMotionsLocale=en-US

Building Study #3, which includes brief videos:

https://my.imotions.com/collect/v108/#s/152c1e7e-20a8-4628-9084-e17d9036e2e5?iMotionsLocale=en-US

These studies use state-of-the-art eye-tracking and facial-expression-analysis software from iMotions.com, a leading purveyor of biometric tools for human behavioral research. Once on site, the studies first direct you to eye-tracking calibration slides – where you simply focus on a shape as it moves across the screen – before image viewing begins; the studies take about 3-to-4 minutes each. Each also concludes with a brief series of calibration slides.

theHapi.org hopes to be able to share results next month – stay tuned! And feel free to reach out if you have any questions or other concerns; email: contact@theHapi.org

More info on these biometric Building Studies here:

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Call for Participants: Take part in theHapi.org’s Building Studies – Online!

How do people look at buildings? What immediately draws their eye; do some buildings make people feel happy – and others sad?

Researchers at theHapi.org (the Human Architecture + Planning Institute Inc) ask these kind of questions and use state-of-the-art eye-tracking software to answer them. This month, the nonprofit’s inviting participants to take part in a series of studies using iMotions-online software, to track how we actually look at buildings exploring both our conscious and subliminal responses. The project starts with this 4-minute Building Study#1 – now online!

All are welcome to take part, simply click on link below:

https://my.imotions.com/collect/v105/#s/08436aa3-324e-4d32-818c-166e77dfea6b?iMotionsLocale=en-US

Anyone with a laptop or PC with webcam, can sign in; on a Mac, link to it from Google Chrome or Firefox (and it’s best to do so in a quiet space with minimal distraction.)

theHapi.org’s Building Studies investigate the way that humans actually interact with buildings – moving beyond aesthetic opinion – to collect biometric proof about why and how humans respond the way we do to built environments, establishing criteria for building better places, and improving our health and well-being in the public realm.

For, as Dr. Claudia Miller, of the University of Texas School of Medicine has famously stated: “Architects have a greater ability to improve public health than medical professionals.” We think so too, and believe this important research establishes the metrics for doing so.

If you’re interested in learning more, or have ideas for a study or collaboration, feel free to reach out to theHapi.org. The email: contact@theHapi.org

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How Do We See the World? Like the Animals We Are!

Eye-tracking Times Square, NYC, creates ‘heatmaps’ which glow red where people look most ©iMotions.com

State-of-the-art biosensors, including eye tracking and facial expression analysis software, help us confront something not always considered – our intrinsic animal nature – and how it directs our behavior subliminally much more than most realize.

When applied to understanding our experience of the built environment, these game-changing technologies let us ‘see’ the unseen, breaking down how our interaction with environments happen. They reveal the hidden mechanisms driving our experience, making us understand why we find some places stressful and intrinsically avoid them, while sense others as the opposite, inviting and approachable.

…”When you know the mechanism, you can use that understanding in countless ways to drastically improve the human condition,” explains Nadine Burke Harris, MD, in her remarkable book on human behavior. “That is how you spark a revolution. You shift the frame, you change the lens, and all at once the world is revealed, and nothing is the same.”

Interested in learning more about this revolution or join? Check out this free podcast on exploring Architecture with iMotions, on April 28th, 2022:

https://imotions.com/blog/human-architecture-dynamic/

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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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