The Right Angle Journal - Winter 2017 - 14

AN OBJECTIVE ANGLE
by IAN ELLINGHAM, Ph.D., OAA, FRAIC

ARCHITECTS AND OTHERS

BAROQUE BUILDING IN
STOCKHOLM
CREDIT: THE RIGHT ANGLE

Participants in our Ottawa session last May will remember that we started with an
audience survey. While this was primarily meant to stimulate personal reflection, it
offered some valuable insights into belief structures and preferences. In the development of this survey, preliminary versions were used with the Association of Ontario
Land Economists and the Niagara Society of Architects. To explore contrasts between
groups, the survey has also been used with people who are not involved in the building industry at all.
The data, including that collected at the Ottawa seminar, can be ascribed to three
general groups: (a) architects, (b) others in the building industry, and (c) people not
in the industry, perhaps best described as building users. To date there have been
75 respondents, and some interesting patterns are becoming clear.
For the survey, subject groups were presented with images of buildings from Europe
and North America, and asked to rank them according to aesthetic appeal, on a sevenpoint scale, seven being the highest. Average scores for each group were calculated.
Architects assigned an average score for all buildings of 3.78. For the others in the
building industry it was 4.14, and for the wider population (building users) it was 4.46.
This suggests that architects will generally rank buildings lower than the other groups.
This has been observed by Built Environment Open Forum directors in design juries,
and on design-review committees, where architects tend to be tougher in their rankings than non-architects. Presumably architects are evaluating the buildings relative
to what they themselves might have done for the same site and client.
All groups preferred buildings that are either historical, or appear to be historical.
A baroque building in Stockholm was ranked highest by the architects and building
users, and the seemingly historical office building in Stuttgart was ranked second.
Others in the building industry reversed this order.
Among the buildings that are not historical in presentation, the highestesteemed building among the architects and people in the building
industry has been the Jerwood Library at Trinity Hall Cambridge (UK),
completed in 1998 and designed by Freeland, Rees, Roberts, Architects.
Among the user group, it was edged out by the Mercedes-Benz Museum
in Stuttgart, completed in 2006, and designed by UNStudio (Ben van
Berkel and Caroline Bos). Interestingly, in contrast, the architect group
placed the high-tech Mercedes museum well down in their rankings.
Other fascinating contrasts have appeared in the
data. One example is the Kunsthaus Wien (Vienna
Art House) in Vienna, designed by the Austrian artist Friedensreich
Hundertwasser (1991). The architects and others in the building
industry ranked this building fairly low, while the wider public scored
it just behind the Jerwood Library. The rather exotic Kunsthaus, with
a dramatic exterior pattern and colourful, freeform walls and floors,
could be regarded in a number of ways - but would be difficult for
anyone to ignore. Not unexpectedly, the responses show the greatest diversity of opinion of any of the buildings (highest standard
deviation among the scores).
The Ottawa session went on to explore some of the reasons that
people regarded the building as they did, and a lively discussion
followed. But the main point of the presentation was to show that
KUNSTHAUS WIEN, FRIEDENSREICH
human response to buildings is not just guesswork. It can be studied
HUNDERTWASSER
and measured, leading to a more evidence-based architecture.
CREDIT: THE RIGHT ANGLE

14 | Read The Right Angle Journal online www.therightanglejournal.ca



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of The Right Angle Journal - Winter 2017

Message from the Board
Why aren’t All Buildings Beautiful?
Resilience: The Forest and the Trees
Index to Advertisers
Locations: City Lights Bookstore, San Francisco
The Right Angle Journal - Winter 2017 - Intro
The Right Angle Journal - Winter 2017 - cover1
The Right Angle Journal - Winter 2017 - cover2
The Right Angle Journal - Winter 2017 - 3
The Right Angle Journal - Winter 2017 - 4
The Right Angle Journal - Winter 2017 - 5
The Right Angle Journal - Winter 2017 - 6
The Right Angle Journal - Winter 2017 - Message from the Board
The Right Angle Journal - Winter 2017 - Why aren’t All Buildings Beautiful?
The Right Angle Journal - Winter 2017 - 9
The Right Angle Journal - Winter 2017 - 10
The Right Angle Journal - Winter 2017 - 11
The Right Angle Journal - Winter 2017 - 12
The Right Angle Journal - Winter 2017 - 13
The Right Angle Journal - Winter 2017 - 14
The Right Angle Journal - Winter 2017 - 15
The Right Angle Journal - Winter 2017 - 16
The Right Angle Journal - Winter 2017 - 17
The Right Angle Journal - Winter 2017 - 18
The Right Angle Journal - Winter 2017 - Resilience: The Forest and the Trees
The Right Angle Journal - Winter 2017 - Index to Advertisers
The Right Angle Journal - Winter 2017 - Locations: City Lights Bookstore, San Francisco
The Right Angle Journal - Winter 2017 - 22
The Right Angle Journal - Winter 2017 - cover3
The Right Angle Journal - Winter 2017 - cover4
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