Pitfalls of Observational Studies

Clever Hans and the observer effect

After showing two groups of schoolteachers a videotape of an eight-year-old boy, psychologists John Santrock and Russel Tracy found that the teachers’ judgment of the child ultimately depended on whether they had been told the child came from a divorced home or an intact home.  The child was rated as less well-adjusted if the teachers thought he came from a home where the parents were divorced.[1] This finding might seem inconsequential to the field of architecture, but for a profession that often relies on observational studies to evaluate a design’s effect on its users I argue that Santrock and Tracy’s study is one among many architects need to pay attention to.

An observational study*, like post-occupancy surveys, is a common method architects use to evaluate a design’s effect on its users. If done well observational studies can provide a wealth of valuable and reliable information. They do, however, have their pitfalls, most notably controlling for cognitive and selection biases. At the risk of limiting readership, I will illustrate these challenges by reviewing a specific observational study dealing with design. Although specific, the following example wrestles with the same difficulties that other observational studies in architecture wrestle with.

‘Reverse of Volume RG’ Installation / Onishi Yasuaki

© Nash Baker

Yasuaki Onishi, who is known for his art throughout Japan and internationally, currently has an installation on exhibit in the Rice Gallery in titled, ‘Reverse of Volume RG’. On display until June 24, he uses plastic sheeting and black hot glue to create a monumental, mountainous form that appears to float in space. In using these simple materials, he is able to successfully meditate on the nature of the negative space, or void, left behind. More images and project description after the break.

Can you Crowdsource a City?

A screenshot of the Video for the City 2.0, the 2012 TED Prize Winner, which aims to use to rebuild our cities. Photo via Atlantic Cities.
Pop-Up,” “DIY,” “Kickstarter” “LQC” (That’s lighter, quicker, cheaper for the unfamiliar). Urbanisms of the People have been getting awfully catch-phrasey these days. What all these types of DIY Urbanisms share is a can-do spirit, a “Hacker” mentality: people are taking back their cities, without any “expert” help.

Unfortunately, of course, this mindset creates an anti-establishment (often, anti-architect) antagonism that would render any wide-spread change nigh impossible. Yes, the DIY movement, facilitated by the use of technology, is excellent for getting people involved, for encouraging important, innovative ideas – in the short-term.

As Alexandra Lange recently pointed out in her post “Against Kickstarter Urbanism,” technology is not a “magic wand,” and crowdsourcing initiatives often fall short in the day-to-day, nitty-gritty work of a large-scale, long-term urban project.

But while technology certainly has its limitations, its potential to facilitate connection and communication is unparalleled. What is vital, however, is that the technology enhance, not replace, our physical relationships. Instead of using online platforms as divisive or purely conceptual forums, they must becomes tools of transparency and trust-building, mediators of a conversation that invests and connects all parties on the ground.

Nishi Sales Suite and Gallery / hungerford+edmunds + OCULUS

© Nic Bailey

Architects: hungerford+edmunds + OCULUS 
Location: New Acton , Australian Capital Territory,
Client: Molonglo Group
Collaborators: Molonglo Group (client), PBS (builder), Oculus (landscape), Arup (ESD), Design Office (interior fit-out) and Clear (graphic design)
Completion: 2011
Area: 270 sqm
Photographs: Nic Bailey

Memphis Veterinary Specialists / archimania

© Jeffrey Jacobs Photography

Architect: Archimania
Location: Cordova, Tennessee,
Owner/Client: Tobias and Associates, LLC
Building Area: 18,323 square feet
Construction Cost: $3,219,900
Completion: June 2011
Photographs: Jeffrey Jacobs Photography

  

Tsinghua Law Library Building Proposal / Kokaistudios

Courtesy of

Kokaistudios was recently announced as the winner of the competition for the new Tsinghua University Law Library located in Beijing, . Proposing a reflection on the role of void in structuring functions and programs within the building, their design also defines, at the same time, its relations within its surroundings. More images and architects’ description after the break.

Practice of Periodontics Zwolle / Kwint Architecten

© Marco C. Slot Photography

Architects: Kwint Architecten
Location: ,
Completion Year: 2011
Collaborators: Heldoorn B.V., Building Contractor; Breman Kloekke, Electrician; Zwols Loodgieters Bedrijf Plumber; Alferink-Van Schieveen, Strucural Engineer; Dental Union
Area: 592 sqm
Photographs: Marco C. Slot Photography

© Philip Winkelmeyer

‘Follow Me: Berlin’s Airport’ Conference

Hosted by Topos Magazine, the ‘Follow Me: Berlin’s Airport’ Conference will be taking place in the disused buildings of Tempelhof Airport on June 5. A number of prominent European Architects, Urban Designers & Landscape Architects will be giving lectures /…

Lagoon Beach House / Birrelli Architects

© Rob Burnett

Architects: Birrelli Architects
Location: Tasmania,
Project Team: Ed Gordon, Lynden Jones, Phil Dingemanse, Andrew Geeves, Jack Birrell
Built Area: 255 sqm
Completion: 2011
Photographs: Rob Burnett

Image Credit: Shutterstock

Sunglass: Bringing Architectural Drafting into the Modern Age

Sunglass, built by two TED fellows, Nitin Rao and Kaustuv DeBiswas, is a collection of three products: the company’s Sunglass Player, which allows artists to incorporate the objects that they’ve created with the software into other web services like Behance.…

AD Classics: Holy Cross Church in Chur, Switzerland / Walter Förderer

Photo by Sebastian F - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AKKH Chur-2.JPG

Standing at the foot of the Alps is the highly contemporary Holy Cross Church in Chur, . Designed by Basel born Swiss architect , the church evokes strong features of Brutalism. Built between 1966 to 1969, the church appears like a mass fortress that conveys a symbolic defensive attitude.

IES Mont Perdut in Terrassa / Lluis Comeron i Graupera

© Pedro Pegenaute

Architects: Lluís Comerón i Graupera
Location: Mont Perdut St, ,
Construction Management: Jaume Prat Boma, SL, Structural, Joan Antoni González Gou, Mechanical, Ivana Rosell, Acoustics
Promoter: Gisa
Completion: 2011
Budget: 6,070,305,68 €, PEC
Area: 4,472.97 sqm
Photographs: Pedro Pegenaute

TED Talk: A Giant Bubble for Debate / Liz Diller

Liz Diller, founding principle of Diller, Scofidio + Renfro, shares the story of creating the pneumatic addition to the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, DC. Commonly known as the “Bubble”, the inflatable event space is planned for the cylindrical courtyard of the National Mall’s modernist museum that was originally designed by Gordon Bunshaft in 1974. The first inflation of the “Bubble” is expected to take place at the end of 2013.

“To truly make good public space, you have to erase the distinctions between architecture, urbanism, landscape, [and] media design.” –

Cutty Sark / Grimshaw

© Jim Stephenson

Architects: Grimshaw
Location: , England
Client: The Cutty Sark Trust
Partner: Chris Nash
Associate Director: Diane Metcalfe
Project Architects:
 Jorrin Ten-Have, Den Farnworth
Architect: Joe Laslett
Principal: Steve Brown
Photographs: Jim Stephenson

Video: COS debut in Milan


Five years on from their launch in ’s Regent Street, COS has made their way to Italy, debuting with a pop-up shop at Salone del Mobile in Milan. In collaboration with set designer Gary Card, the Swedish clothing label has produced a pop-up store in the form of a deconstructed, maze-like wooden cube that houses the garments. Here, COS Women and Men’s designers Karin Gustafsson and Martin Andersson explain how less is more, how they look to Scandinavia for references, and the importance of balance and contrast of proportion.

Frieze Art Fair / SO-IL

© Iwan Baan

Architects: SO – IL
Location: , USA
Client: Frieze Art Fair
Area: 20,900 sqm / 225,000 sf
Completion: May 2012
Photographs: Iwan Baan

Rafael Moneo receives the 2012 Prince of Asturias Award

lecturing at 's Instituto Cervantes © lunamtra

Announced today on his 75th birthday, Spanish Architect Rafael Moneo has been named winner of the prestigious Prince of Asturias Award for the Arts – an award bestowed to an individual, institution or group of individuals or institutions whose work in Cinematography, Theatre, Dance, Music, Photography, Painting, Sculpture, Architecture or any other form of artistic expression constitutes a significant contribution to Mankind’s culture heritage.

As the 32nd laureate, Rafael Moneo is the fifth architect who has received this award, following Oscar Niemeyer in 1989, Santiago Calatrava in 1999, Franciscco Javier Sáenz de Oíza in 1993 and Lord Foster in 2009.

Continue after the break for more.

Accessible Ribadeo / Abalo Alonso Arquitectos

© Santos Diez / Bisimages

Architects: Abalo Alonso Arquitectos – Elizabeth Abalo, Gonzalo Alonso
Location: , Spain
Collaboration: Carlos Bóveda, Juan A. Pérez Valcárcel
Completion: 2010
Photographs: Santos Diez / Bisimages