Investigating spatial affordances in architecture using MoBI and VR (2018)

Djebbara, A. Z., Fich, L. B., Petrini, L., & Gramann, K. (2018)Incentive architecture: Investigating spatial affordances in architecture using MoBI and VR. I Conference Proceedings of the 3rd International Mobile Brain/Body Imaging Conference (s. 106-107)


Sequences of spaces are known to architects to have a certain impact on the perception and affective evaluation of spaces (1). Transitions themselves can be defined in time by the juncture between two spaces, and spatially as a delineating threshold between them, generally revealing a possibility for passing the threshold. Here, we investigated transitions using openings as delineating threshold, to gain a deeper understanding of the perceived affordance (2) of crossing the openings and how this impacts evaluation of the space. Transitioning from space to space includes coordinating the body according to certain spatial delineations, such as openings, and their configuration. We position this study as a link to the broader investigation of cognitive predictive mechanisms to better understand architectural transitions. The aim of this study is to investigate whether the physical passing, referring to affordances and active inference (3–5), co-vary with the motor-related cortical potentials (MRCPs), and whether these correlate with the emotional valence.


Using a Mobile Brain/Body Imaging (MoBI) approach (6–8) we combined head-mounted virtual reality (VR) with mobile electroencephalogram (EEG), to investigate transition through different virtual openings. Participants were asked to transition between two spaces passing through openings of varying width and successive ceiling height. Participants were introduced openings that were too narrow to pass and openings that were difficult, but possible to pass, as well as easily passable (see figure). The task entailed an action-dependent transit (50% of trials), with the final goal to reach a red circle in the successive space. After each trial participants were asked to fill in the SAM-questionnaire.


We hypothesized to find more positive MRCP activity in pre-frontal and parietal areas prior to action in spaces that provide higher affordances, compared to spaces that hinder the agent (9). Furthermore, we investigate whether the ceiling height of the successive space has an emotional influence, and whether the MRCPs may correlate with the introspective decisions.


This study investigates the neural dynamics underlying action and cognition as predictive mechanisms revealing first insights into the affective influences of transitions on spatial perception of sequentially experienced spaces. Moving beyond stationary architectural investigations, such as pictures, transitions in VR provide an excellent point of departure for animate architectural investigations. Further, this investigation contributes to the architectural discourse of defining spatial threshold, suggesting the threshold of space goes beyond sole visual representation, and in turn also depend on sufficiently re-orchestrating the planned bodily trajectory. Transitions in architecture are non-stationary experiences, as most of architectural experience, and such animate insights of the impact of action-dependent transitions give rise to questioning fundamental architectural themes, such as open-spaces, corners, flow and homogeneity. Mobile EEG studies of architectural settings are crucial to better understand the bodily impact of a constantly growing built environment.


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  9. Bozzacchi C, Spinelli D, Pitzalis S, Giusti MA, Di Russo F. I know what I will see: action-specific motor preparation activity in a passive observation task. Soc Cogn Affect Neurosci. 2015;10(6):783–9.


Poster can be found here.

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