DIMORPH Desgin Lab
Ebrahim Poustinchi, Saleh Kalantari,
Arash Kia , Leila Soleymani
Reducing Public Stress Levels by Improving the Shape,Orientation and Visual Patterns of Urban Buildings
The main hypothesis in this research is that designers can reduce general anxiety levels by improving the shape, orientation, and visual patterns of urban buildings. There is undoubtedly a wider range of exterior architectural features that contribute to anxiety level beyond these three identified variables; however, based on patterns discovered in earlier research we believe that these three areas are central candidates for implementing effective anxiety-reducing architectural interventions. We plan to study and document anxiety responses associated with four different architectural shapes (circle, square, triangle, and polygon), three different heights (tall, medium, and low), and five different visual patterns (vertical, horizontal, grid, diagonal, and circular), all within an urban environment. We also plan to collect data on the way in which habituation and personal demographics/background is related to urban exterior architectural stress responses. For example, we will evaluate whether a personal history of living or working in a downtown area is associated with higher or lower levels of anxiety in navigating various architectural environments.
Washington State University SDC + University of Pensylvania Health System
How can Shape,Orientation and Visual Patterns of Urban Buildings affect the stress level of the city?
Stress associated with urban environments is known to contribute to a variety of negative health outcomes, and the physical geography of cities is a significant factor in creating this stress. Therefore, urban architecture that minimizes environmental stressors and fosters exposure to stress-reducing/restorative features can play a vital role in improving human wellbeing (Ulrich 1991; Ulrich et al., 2006). In recent years a significant amount of architectural research has focused on identifying and modifying stress-associated interior design features in urban buildings, such as healthcare facilities, high-rise offices, and malls. However, the relationship between the exterior features of these buildings and environmental stress has been relatively undermined. A few early investigators (Haber, 1977; Nasar, 1984) studied human stress and exterior architecture using what are now regarded as primitive methods (e.g., asking informants to compare pictures of different buildings). Haber (1977) found that 22% of the respondents in his study experienced elevated stress when looking toward a high-rise. However, there is currently no empirical research that updates these studies and seeks to identify concept and practical approaches of minimizing exterior architecture-induced stress in urban environments. The goal of our research is to fill this gap by using virtual reality techniques to carefully evaluate urban architectural factors such as building shape, orientation, and visual patterns in relation to human stress levels.
The research participants will first complete a written questionnaire, in which they will have an opportunity to provide demographic and background data to collect the participants’ attitude towards architectural form and content. They will then be asked to explore a 3D-generated city using virtual reality headsets. The stress-response testing will proceed in two phases. First, participants will be asked to virtually “walk” for ten seconds toward a particular building, with brief anxiety-measurement tests administered before and after thisexperience. They will continue this procedure for various other virtual buildings that have been designed to isolate the architectural variables under study. Then, in phase two of the testing, the participant will be allowed to walk independently and continuously throughout the virtual city and observe all of the 60 buildings (4 shapes x 3 heights x 5 patterns) that are used in the study. As the participant explores different parts of the virtual city his or her anxiety responses will be measured in real time by monitoring blood pressure, respiratory rate, and pulse rate. Using these two different methods of evaluation will allow for a triangulation of data, providing a more nuanced outlook on the anxiety responses that are being investigated and helping to improve the validity of the data. Our goal is to recruit four hundred research participants for the study in order to provide a reliable sample size.
PROPOSED RESEARCH METHODOLOGY AND METHODS