Visualization of Architectural Experiences Using Heat Maps

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Architectural experience is defined in this article as the manner in which people apprehend buildings, and the way they respond to them. A classification of architectural experiences is presented here, encompassing people’s sensory and emotional responses, the meanings that buildings evoke and the actions carried out in them. The main objectives of this article are, first, to introduce a method to discover the experiential schemes or ways of appreciating architecture works that people adopt when they observe, explore, and analyze buildings; and second, to render tangible those phenomena through graphical representations or visualizations. In order to collect qualitative data about the experiences of participants with buildings, a think-aloud protocol was used, in which participants were asked to say whatever came to their minds as they visited a building. The use of the think-aloud protocol and a special graphic survey (proposed here) allowed a deeper comprehension of human experiences with architectural environments. Pilot test participants of think-aloud and the survey were architecture students who visited one of the two buildings selected. The phenomena experienced in built environments were made visible through visualizations of the survey results. Just like eye-tracking heat maps, these visualizations allowed seeing in space which areas or parts of a building produce specific experiences, as well as the intensity of those phenomena. A better understanding of what is considered beautiful, interesting, uncommon, ordered, etc.—and the relationships among them—was achieved through this method.