This book evaluates how we experience and understand buildings in different ways depending upon our academic and professional background. With reference to Rem Koolhaas' Seattle Central Library, the book illustrates a range of different methods available through its application to the building. By seeing such a variety of different research methods applied to one setting, it provides the opportunity for researchers to understand how tools can highlight various aspects of a building and how those different methods can augment, or complement, each other.
Unique to this book are contributions from internationally renowned academics from fields including architecture, ethnography, architectural criticism, phenomenology, sociology, environmental psychology and cognitive science, all of which are united by a single, real-world application, the Seattle Central Library.
This book will be of interest to architects and students of architecture as well as disciplines such as ethnography, sociology, environmental psychology, and cognitive science that have an interest in applying research methods to the built environment.
Table of Contents
Introduction (Ruth Dalton & Christoph Hölscher), Part I: The Process of Design, 1. Diamonds and Sponge (Albena Yaneva), 2. Just How Public Is the Seattle Central Library? Publicity, Posturing, and Politics in Public Design (Shannon Mattern), 3. OMA’s Conception of the Users of Seattle Central Library (Ruth Dalton), Part II: The Building as Artefact, 4. One-way Street (Kim Dovey), 5. A Phenomenological and Hermeneutic Reading of Rem Koolhaas’s Seattle Central Library: Buildings as Lifeworlds and Architectural Texts (David Seamon), 6. The Feel of Space: Social and Phenomenal Staging in the Seattle Central Library (Julie Zook and Sonit Bafna), 7. Seattle Central Library as Place: Reconceptualising Space, Community and Information at the Central Library (Karen Fisher, Matthew Saxton, Phillip Edwards and Jens-Erik Mai), Part III: The Library and its Users, 8.Emotional Responses to Locations in the Seattle Central Library (Saskia Kuliga), 9. Why People get Lost in the Seattle Central Library (Amy Shelton, Steven Marchette, Christoph Hölscher, Ben Nelligan, Tim Shipley and Laura Carlson), 10. Using Social Media to Gather Users’ Feedback of the Seattle Central Library (Ruth Dalton & Saskia Kuliga), 11. Discovering Serendip: Eye Tracking Experiments in the Seattle Central Library as the Beginning of a Research Adventure (Clemens Plank and Fiona Zisch), Epilogue : Drawing together the Multiple Perspectives of the Seattle Central Library (Wilfried Wang)
Ruth Conroy Dalton is Professor of Building Usability and Visualisation at the University of Northumbria at
Newcastle. She is an architect and her research interests are on the relationship between the spatial layout of buildings
and environments and how people understand, and interact in, those spaces.
Christoph Hölscher is Professor of Cognitive Science at ETH Zurich. He is a psychologist by training, and the
focus of his work is at the intersection of spatial cognition and architectural design.
Buildings operate in a multitude of ways, they are structural, constructional, social cultural and aesthetic. They modify the environment and act as mechanisms for generating, or inhibiting social contact. This makes the question of how to research them one that is as rich as it is varied. This compilation of essays, all about one building, brings together authors each with different perspectives and methodologies. It could be considered a primer in the possible suite of approaches open to the researcher, or taken together it makes for a rare attempt to synthesis across disciplines. It gives about the best example I have seen of what a ‘trans-disciplinary’ approach to architectural research could look like.
Professor Alan Penn, Dean of The Bartlett, UCL
How buildings work for their occupiers and how design icons perform for their users is an imprecise and understudied field. The connections between design aspiration and their impact on people are rarely understood despite the huge capital investments that buildings command. This book brings a fresh and rigorous perspective to the field, founded in original and compelling research. It should become the bible for anyone interested in commissioning, designing and evaluating how buildings can add value to society.
Ricky Burdett, Professor of Urban Studies, London School of Economics