What influences the way we experience space?
Before creating a space with a distinct atmosphere it is crucial to understand the difference between intended atmosphere and perceived atmosphere. Intended atmosphere is the way a space is designed to be experienced. Generally the creator of that space will make these decisions based on the Identity, purpose and the emotional involvement that space is supposed to communicate. Perceived atmosphere is the way every individual actually experiences space based on their culture, previous knowledge of the space and the expectation the have when entering the space.
For example: Cultural differences can play a huge role in perceiving a space. What feels big for an European usually feels pretty small to an American. What feels organized and clean to an Indian can feel cluttered and unorganized to a German. Culture also influences the understanding of materials and color, and can be very differently perceive depending by the cultural background of a person. For example: the color White is being viewed as a color of grief in most asian countries where in european countries the color of grief is black!. Lurid, flashy colors are a symbol for luxury in East European countries The same color scheme is being seen as cheap in western european countries. Colorful wild patterns are a sign of wealth and beauty in Africa where in europe we find these to be to busy and childlike.
Expectation of a space also can influence the perception of a space. If we enter a luxury store with a pre-expectation of customer service, prize segment and product pallet, the likeliness of disappointment is quite high and uncontrollable. If the person will not find what he is looking for, will not be helped immediately or the expected price differs from his expectation, the experience and the perception of the Space will be negative without any intentionally communication. Also the opposite can harm a created atmosphere. If we enter a store and the prizes seem extremely low or the interior seems disconnected from the stores values, we will become suspicious. The thought that something is wrong with the space will occur and we will mistrust the created atmosphere.
Previous knowledge will play a role as well, in creating the right atmosphere. Most of us know the feeling of being at a place for the first time. (think of your first time at an airport, or when you had your first interview at a new job) Directions are unclear, we observe the ones around us to copy their behavior and we create a pre-judgement on what to expect. Entering the same space for the second time usually is a complete different experience. We know where to go, how to behave and what to expect. We know so, because we’ve learned so the first time. Atmosphere needs to be able to communicate clear enough, so we understand all needed information the first time around and needs to be incommunicative enough to not interfere with us the second time around.
To understand that every space communicates with us as individuals, and that we interact with that given information is the foundation of a well designed space!
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To learn more about space and atmosphere, read our blog post: Our expectation towards Atmosphere – Part 3