The perception of a spatial setting’s quality equally depends on the architectural product and its properties and the qualifying person. A scientific approach to the question of how spaces are perceived thus requires comprehension of both the existing subjective components and the objective facts. In relation to architecture and the interior design of spaces, Meisenheimer thus speaks of the objectively given atmospheric structure and the subjectively tinged experiencing of a space. [1] Therefore, an assessment of spatial experience is always influenced by subjective aspects such as the diverse experiences of every individual and established priorities within a personal system of values.

Apart from the objective and subjective level, observations of spatial quality can also be divided according to features attributed to either the product or to the impact the product has during usage.  In consideration of both dimensions, four approaches are distinguished (see diagram). An analysis of an interior space provides a characterization of the four approaches as following:

 Spacial Qualities

The product-focused approach is concerned with measurable features of the product. It determines the physical conditions of space (the object). It is a matter of specifying various parameters such as size, form, positioning and material. This approach defines quality according to amount, dimensions, number of functions and quality of the material. As a measure of comparison, the use of the latest technical solutions is generally considered as a positive.

The consumption-focused approach emphasizes the experience of the product. High quality is articulated through high functionality and a satisfactory experience during usage. It is concerned with the measureable effect the product will have on users. Consumers will thereby not be analyzed individually, but grouped according to different characteristics. This can be achieved through categorization formed by anything ranging from simple comparison of specific features to precisely differentiated classifications.

The aesthetic approach is predominantly concerned with formal aspects of the design of the product. Qualities of a product which refer to aesthetic formation rather than technical specifications can essentially only be assessed subjectively, and are thus, for instance, not patentable. The look, impression, appearance and range of functions of the product are designed by means of applying the professional experience and aesthetic knowledge of architects, interior designers and designers.

The consumer-focused approach is concerned with the question of how function and product experience relate to the personal notions of customers or users of space. The focus is thereby on the impact it has on concrete individuals rather than hypothetical representatives in an average group of users.

Spatial quality can be defined according to all four approaches. In order to ensure clarity of communication, a declaration of the chosen approach is required. An analysis according to the consumer-focused approach can be carried out in the form of an evaluation of the relationship between a person and an environment. Space is perceived as a living space in which the person and the environment approach each other in congruence, which suggests, to a greater or lesser extent, a close approximation of spatial and environmental factors and individual desires, expectations  and intentions.

Fuhrer differentiates between four levels in the person-environment congruence [2]: ergonomic congruence, cognitive congruence, emotional congruence and motivational congruence. This itemized observation enables the designers of the environment to determine approaches to optimize the relationship between a person and a constructed environment.

In conclusion, it can be stated that a considerable amount of accordance between different observing individuals can be ascertained. Particularly the customer-focused approach, in addition to accordance, takes into account personal evaluation methods and thus provides valuable insights for the design process.



[1] Meisenheimer, W. (2004). Das Denken des Leibes und der architektonische Raum. Köln: König.

[2] Fuhrer, U. (1996). Person-Umwelt-Kongruenz. In L. Kruse, C. F. Graumann, & E.-D. Lantermann (Eds.), Ökologische Psychologie: ein Handbuch in Schlüsselbegriffen (pp. 143–153). München: Beltz Psychologie Verlags Union.

  • Trackback are closed
  • Comments (0)
  1. No comments yet.