Events » SHARE Conference Aarhus 2014 » Research Presentations » Understanding Aesthetics of Urban Environment through Drawing

Anna Kholina

Understanding Aesthetics of Urban Environment through Drawing

Aalto University


The research is based on artistic practice-led inquiry and uses drawing practice to capture and analyse visual aesthetics of urban environment.

Cities of today present many challenges for designers including quality of services, infrastructure, ecology, administration and social interactions. One of the implicit but nevertheless important issues is the visual or aesthetic quality of urban spaces. As most of daily received information comes from visual senses, environmental image has a profound physiological effect on well-being and overall perception of the area. Despite a large number of studies conducted in this direction, there is still no acknowledged methodology for assessment or improving visual quality of urban space.

Taking into account existing approaches this research proposes alternative method of understanding and evaluating cityscapes: via the practice of drawing. It provides a setting for a deep experience of surrounding landscape, critical reflection and verbalisation of situated or embodied knowledge.

The research develops a method to analyse cityscape via drawing practices on three levels of experience: visual perception, cognition and meaning. It is aimed at understanding how an aesthetic preference is formed and what features of environment have stronger effect on it. Data is collected during drawing experiments: an artist is asked to depict the perceived environment and comment in a semi-structured form on the process after the drawing is completed using video recording as a stimulus for reflective conversation. Mind mapping expertise and artistic production takes place after the drawing session and is meant to capture attitude and cognitive experience.

Methodology of the research focuses on externally imperceptible activities during the drawing process: personal degree of interest, meaningful associations and perceived complexity / order. Two types of microscopic analyses are used: protocol analysis based on recorded video and reflective conversation or thinking on action. Qualitative content analysis is then applied to retrieve information about features of environment that contribute to the development of visual experience.

Results of research can be used by urban planners, designers or architects to enhance the quality of new residential and commercial areas as well as to improve the image of existing ones to create inspiring and visually engaging spaces.

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