The Right Angle Journal - Winter 2017 - 15

DUNTROON HOUSE, COLLINGWOOD, ONTARIO.
ARCHITECT: PAUL ROTH

There is considerable academic research into the subject of how to create buildings
that look good, or to put it more academically: How can we make buildings that will
be regarded positively? The knowledge base goes back beyond the landmark work of
Stephen and Rachel Kaplan in the 1980s, and subsequent research has generally
supported their propositions. It's unfortunate that very little of this research has found
its way into architectural practice.
A residential building was recently drawn to my attention that a lot of people - both
architects and non-architects - seem to like. The Duntroon house, near Collingwood,
Ontario and designed by Paul Roth, Architect, includes a number of features that
ongoing research by psychologists and neuroscientists have identified as favourably
regarded by most people.
Repeated research has shown that architects do not perceive the built environment
in the same way that other people do. This is not surprising - you wouldn't expect your
physician to interpret a skin rash in the same way as a non-physician, however well
informed the non-physician might be. The difference lies
in the years of education and experience that a doctor
and an architect have acquired that cannot be replaced
by intense internet surfing, or "the connoisseur effect."1
How do the characteristics of the Duntroon house
reflect what we know based on the academic research?
Prototypicality

Neuroscientists have shown that the fundamental
assessment of a stimulus takes a fraction of a second.
Hence, many of our judgments are effectively intuitive,
and a rationale, if needed, is developed afterwards.
Researchers tend to believe that this is the result of our ancestors' survival instinct
in coping with the dangerous environments in which they lived for most of human existence. The process involves digging through our memories to find objects or emotions
that can help in the evaluation.
Most people will find it easy to relate the Duntroon house to other Ontario farmhouses
they have seen: it has a pitched roof, gables, chimney and stone walls. However, those
who are unfamiliar with Ontario farmhouses may not have the cultural and visual experience to make this association, so are less likely to esteem the building.

DUNTROON HOUSE,
EXTERIOR.
PHOTO: RICHARD JOHNSON

Legibility

In order for the brain to quickly identify suitable prototypes, the building must be
legible - "easy to read." If it is difficult to understand, it is unlikely to be related to a
prototype and the building will likely be rejected. The brain is an amazing instrument,
but energy-conserving, or possibly just plain lazy. If something takes too much effort
to evaluate, the brain may feel that the assortment of information emanating from the
stimulus is just not worth dealing with, given the meagre benefit. The result is that
the viewer may ignore the building, or worse, just classify it as ugly.
With a modest interpretation of some of the thoughts of Kaplan and Kaplan (and
others), a building's legibility might comprise:
* A limited palette of materials, patterns and colours (such as neutral and earth tones,
stone, wood and glass)
* Simplicity of detailing
* Forms that are simple, similar to one another and easy to understand
* Edges and lines that are well defined
* Strong textures
With respect to the forms in the Duntroon house, there is some complexity,
but for those familiar with Ontario homes, it is countered by the equally familiar
domestic elements.
The Right Angle | Winter 2017/2018 | 15



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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