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Exploring Human Scale

Exploring Human Scale

 

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Introduction

This paper explores the concept of scale and proportion in relation to the human body, the resulting experiences, and the application of scale and proportion in different typologies.

How do differently scaled/sized spaces in relation to the human body affect the experience of a building? 

Building abstract qualities creates significant sensory experiences such as sensuous satisfaction and sensuous delight. The effect of abstract qualities does not exist in isolation. On the contrary, Berleant (2016) argues that ‘they are activated by the presence of human participants, the user’ (p.9).  Scale and proportion are critical elements in architecture in that they aid in establishing spaces. One of the facets in explaining scale and proportion in architectural projects relates to the extent to which a project relates to the size of the human body (Adler, Brittain –Catlin & Fontana-Giusti 2013). Buildings are characterized by different scales and sizes in relation to the human body, which impacts individuals’ experience of a building.

Scale and proportion in a building play a remarkable role in shaping an individual’s experiences of a building (Rasmussen 1964). For example, scale is used in juxtaposition with human mass to influence individuals’ feelings and experiences in a number of ways. For example, the scale of a building in relation to the human body influences the development of feelings of intimidation and awe-inspiring. For example, in building cathedrals, architects purposely design the towering spaces with the intention of creating a feeling of insignificance amongst the faithful in relation to the awesome power of God.

The size of a room in relation to the human body impacts the degree of comfort that an individual derives from the space.  Baraban and Durocher (2010) assert that a room that is overly large or small can make an individual uncomfortable. Similarly, a small room that is high ceilinged and walled can make an individual develop the feeling of being in a pit.  Berleant (2016) asserts that scaling and proportion in relation to the human body can also evoke a feeling of isolation, loftiness, exposure, and expansiveness. This aspect underlines the importance of factoring human proportion in the architectural design process.

How scale can be employed in different typologies to create an appropriate experience?   

The concept of scale and proportion is widely used in shaping individuals’ emotions and expectations in relation to different typologies.  Falk and Dierking (2016) assert that the concept of scaling can be applied in an effort to generate anxiety among individuals. For example, in museums, scaling is employed in such a way that it elevates anxiety among visitors, especially individuals who might not be familiar with museums. Falk and Dierking (2016) further assert that the experience generated is influenced by the specific design and size of features of the museum.

The concept of scaling is also applied in restaurants in an effort to create an aesthetic feeling amongst customers.   Within the restaurant setting, architectures use space, scale, and proportion in an effort to create a feeling of intimacy among different categories of customers such as business associates, single diners, couples, or groups.  Therefore, by employing proper scaling, architects can lead to the development of a sense of place amongst restaurant customers (Baraban & Durocher 2010).

In addition to the above element the concept of scale and proportion is also applied in designing and building courts. For example, Kemp (2007) asserts that ‘architects employ huge stone structures with domes and columns which dwarfs the human dimension and invokes folks memories of sacred antiquity’ (p. 271).

Conclusion

The paper indicates that scale and proportion is a fundamental component in architectural design in that it influences individuals’ experiences.

References

Adler, G, Brittain-Catlin & Fontona-Giusti, G 2013, Scale; imagination, perception and practice in architecture, Routledge, New York.

Berleant, A 2016, Aesthetics beyond the arts; new and recent essays, Routledge, New York. Baraban, R & Durocher, J 2010, Successful restaurant design, John Wiley & Sons, Hoboken, NJ.

Falk, J & Dierking, L 2016, The museum experience revisited, Routledge, New York.

Kemp, F 2007, Emotions in command; biology, bureaucracy, and cultural evolution, Transaction Publishers, New York.

Rasmussen, S 1964, Experiencing architecture, MIT Press, Cambridge.

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