The communication model


"A fish, it is said, "cannot discover water" except, perhaps, when it is removed from its customary environment. In a like manner we may become more conscious of our visual environment if we attempt to speculate on the condition of our lives and the nature of our world without vision."

Let us imagine for a moment that you became blind. The loss of sight would certainly cause an enormous change in your life. Your sensory world would shrink to what you could hear, touch, taste, and smell, and you would be excluded from many of the richest human experiences. Our adaptation to any sensory environment is so pervasive that it becomes almost "invisible" to us. Like fish we move through it, not comprehending the full extent of its effect on us and unaware of our effect on it, simply because we know nothing else, we know no other reality, so there is nothing to compare it to.

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The whole story of our human species may be seen in terms of our continuing efforts to orient ourselves in our environment. "What we see (regardless of what is before our eyes) is determined by how we have learned to see. Our eyes are by no means merely open windows, admitting everything "out there" to our awareness or preconsciousness." The basic fact of environmental experience is that it occurs as we move through space, over intervals of time. Time (past, present and future) implies our presence in a succession of different locations. Thus our primary knowledge of the environment, our orientation in it, and the meanings it has for us are developed from the sensory data that becomes available to us as we move along a specific path through it. "Human experience is a continuous multi-stranded steam of upstream memories and downstream anticipations, flowing in a streambed of present times, places and occasions."

"The first rule of understanding the human condition is that men live in a second-hand world." Our images of this world and of ourselves are given to us by crowds of witnesses we have never met and never shall meet. Yet for each of us these images (provided by strangers and dead men) are the very basis of our lives. None of us stands alone directly confronting a world of solid fact, no such world is available. In our everyday life we experience not solid and immediate facts but stereotypes of meaning. "Communications not only limit experience; often they expropriate the chances to have experience that can rightly be called our own."

There was nothing uniquely human in tool making until it was modified by linguistic symbols, aesthetic designs, and socially transmitted knowledge. Man converts all the things that happen to him into symbols, and then commonly responds to the symbols as if they were the actual external stimuli. Written languages are of course the prime example, but other notations such as mathematics, music or chemistry are also of great importance. In the case of graphic musical notations, they were published as a system in the eleventh century by Guido d'Arezzo to facilitate the public development of the art of music by providing "friendly tools" that, in the words of Ivan Illich "give each person who uses them the greatest opportunity to enrich the environment with the fruit of his or her version."

"Chemistry became a science with the periodic table for instance, and biology became a science with the natural classification of organisms. In the social sciences, a comparable descriptive base is something we must look for... description must be an important early goal." What we need is a wider consciousness of the necessity to employ better tools to implement our efforts, and greater public participation, to thus enhance the possibilities of superior performances in the art of living. "Our techniques limit what we do, in the same way that any language limits what we think about. Our techniques also describe, by default, our goals..." New jobs require new tools. If the type or mode of simulation is inappropriate to a given issue, the communication will be confusing, and the response will be irrelevant.

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The nature of the experiences proposed for any user in any architectural project is naturally of interest to those for whom the project is intended, and the proposal should be accessible to them, at least for their review, and preferably should be a result of their participation. The fact that these experiences may be specified by means of notation system facilitates the achievement of this goal. Instead of being formless in the back of a few designers mind, these unclear intentions acquire a greater logic by the act of formal representation and provide the possibility of public review, comparison and contribution. Thus the development of graphic notations may facilitate the sharing of environmental experiences.

It must be a language easily learned, and therefore as close in form as possible to the original experience. Musicians, chemists, and mathematicians learn to deal with the abstract notations which are fundamental to the practice of their arts, and there is no reason to think that architects and designers would be less capable of a similar achievement, after all they are all competent in the use of the very abstract notation of the written natural language.

Technology, tools and techniques

"It is not with tools only that we domesticate our world, sensed forms, images and symbols are as essential to us as palpable reality in exploring nature for human ends. Distilled from our experience and made our permanent possessions, they provide a nexus between man and man and between man and nature. We make a map of our experience patterns, an inner model of the outer world, and we use this to organize our lives."

"Visual images are tools for this progressive control of nature. Each new visual conquest creates a new horizon, a new frame of reference, a new starting point for further development. As the aspects of nature change, man needs to readjust these tools and develop new uses for them. As there is progress of the thinking process, so also there is evolution of sensory comprehension. The development of vision leads not only to further understanding of nature but also to the progressive development of human sensibilities, and thus to wider and deeper human experiences"

As Gyorgy kepes indicates, representation thus operates not only to orient us individually and socially in the environment but, through its continuing development, to expand our sensibilities and thus enrich our experiences. Thus in this chapter we first examine the context of the social system in which the process of predictive design operates. This is followed by a review of the representation and simulation tools of communication that implement this process, concluding with a consideration of the techniques necessary for obtaining the corresponding experiential responses.

The Design and Management Process

The environment is used as the model to obtain knowledge about itself. The major task is to simplify, select and coordinate from a mass of information whatever is relevant to the design or the planning decision.

The essence of a true design process is the element of prediction, as designers the predictive success of our operations depends on our ability to first represent a problem, our objectives, and acceptance criteria in agreement with the client. Our representations and simulations are the technical means by which we manifest tentative alternatives for communication with the many others involved. But because of our involvement and commitment to the project, our intentions might seem large in our consciousness, but we cannot expect the same for the users of our work. We must allow for the fact that they may approach it in preoccupation, at different need states, from different backgrounds, with different expectations, and for different purposes. For these reasons they may not pick up our intended signals, and even if they do, they may not respond to them as we might or as we think they will or should.

"The architect as myth-maker offers his products to be considered as universal truths, hopefully, or idiosyncratic blunders, if they fail. They are not intended primarily to be put to empirical test; they must be accepted before that. Nor is significance and fertility allowed to be their sole criterion, as in art, We must believe in them..." One implication of this argument is that a lot of people are currently so furious with the buildings they use, in part because they are the victims of the architect's 'hypotheses' while he seems unconcerned about the users reactions. Design students may be forgiven if under the pressure of assimilating their craft they consider reality to be their drawings rather than what the drawing represent, but when practitioners fall into the same trap and confuse the physical manifestations of their professional services as the point of their whole operation, it becomes unclear whether the practicing architect simply omits to verify his hypotheses by default, rather as the student does, or whether he does it through lack of interest in them.

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The architectural profession should clarify the doubt. If verification is to be a part of architectural creativity, it must be carried out by the architect himself. A continuing concern for the building in use and for the users should be shown by the creative architect. "The building is not the picture. The building is only the frame - the picture is life."

Representation and Simulation

"It may be asserted that the moving view is the primary way in which we experience our environment today. Yet sequence design is practiced rarely, and then in only the simplest way. Few of its inherent possibilities for artistic expression have yet been exploited."

Since the most commonly form of representation to visually simulate a hypothesized environment in the environmental design professions is still the familiar perspective. The principle of this representation is well illustrated in Albrecht Dürer's drawing (which is itself an example of its own process). Here we see the painter fixing his viewport at a specific point in space at the tip of a convenient obelisk and then mechanically mapping the contours of the immobile scene to be represented, as seen through a two dimensional grid, into a similar grid on the drawing surface in front of him. It is important to notice that this technique of representation involves a static observer, a fixed viewpoint, a specific direction of view and a limited field of vision. It implies a static and visually limited relationship between the painter and the environment, frozen in time.

Artists have been trying to transcend these limitations ever since the technique was developed, but for some inexplicable reason architects have been quite content with it, selecting a favorable, dramatic, sometimes unrealistic viewing position and from it creating a view of their work which idealizes it. The client, who is after all just a layman, is thus able to 'visualize' the design without being distracted by all the mean little details that might worry a realist. The simulator can choose a static view that is not too ordinary, or even one which is not accessible, and at the same time improve the apparent proportions of the projected building. Here is a rendering with human figures one meter high seen through the glass wall of the vestibule accenting its monumentally, for consistency of the cars in the street are drawn three meters long. The sunlight impinges brightly on the north wall, while a delicate pattern of clouds shadows flits across the glass envelope. This is much more interesting than the reflection of the elevated railway across the street would be, and also breaks up the monotony of the fenestration. A couple of chimneys have been left off the drawing because everybody knows that such features are never seen in perspective anyway. All of the awkward corners of the building are miraculously hidden by trees, serving to focus attention on the essential features of the proposal. This is not to say that the perspective could not communicate physical relations, but that a greater danger would exist of it being misread because it contains extraneous information concerning what the complex would look like.

The same comments also apply to eye level still photographs of models and to photomontages combining photos of existing environments with photos of models or with drawings and renderings. On the other hand, wide angle, fish eye and rotating camera lenses and drawings made on cylindrical and hemispherical projection systems provide extended fields of view and thus multiple view directions but involve a fixed viewpoint.

Floor plans are too limited and too specific for general form solutions and they cannot be flexibly manipulated to explore various alternatives. Even supplementing plans with elevations and sections gives the observer a static, two dimensional view which does not simulate the actual sensory experiences which would be perceived. "Suffice it to say that when planning, transportation, and design professionals plan new towns and cities, they usually structure them to that they read well at an altitude of 30,000 feet. The methods used by ordinary people on the ground are perhaps more relevant and, apparently, more interesting."13]

In the use of film, the most serious difficulty is the difference between the camera and the human eye. The eye has a very small angle of acute vision, coupled with a broad angle of hazy vision. It perceives the details of objects by searching the visual field in a quick regular motion. The camera on the other hand, is a staring eye of uniformly acute vision over an angle of moderate size. In one way it records too much, if we want to simulate the workings of a human eye, in another way, it records too little by reducing peripheral vision. Furthermore its center of attention does not leap from object to object as does the eye.

Scale models are well adapted for the display of three dimensional forms. But aside from their use in the production of films, videotapes, and slide sequences, they are experimentally suitable for only scale model people.

(Luigi Moretti's Discontinuity of Space in Caravaggio and Sequences of Spaces)