The war of the senses

The twentieth century saw the greatest period of conflict in the history of architectural design theory. The two protagonists in the conflict are (or were), functionalism and aesthetics.Note#7 These terms are oversimplifications of the positions of the two camps. It is those oversimplifications, rationalisations and polarisations that distinguish these debates from the more balanced and amicable discussions of the previous centuries. To the side of these debates, and generally ignored by designers as trivial, the perceptual models of psychology were being developed. The model of perception described here, 'functional aesthetics,' builds on perceptual psychology's model of needs-driven appreciation of beauty, and explores a new definition of 'need' for design theory and practice.

Key to understanding the discussions is the phrase "the need to cope with their environment," as the permutations of this phrase generate the bulk of discussions surrounding function and aesthetics. This need creates stress for the user, and can be seen as the primary interface for understanding reactions to design. The concept of "environment" can include the input of all senses, including those which monitor the user's internal states (appetites, pains, and the like), and in an even more abstract way, the user's thoughts, history and preferences.

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Copyright (c) 1997 -- Mike Fletcher
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