architecture + technology

Investigating the Effects of Ambient Displays on Movement Patterns in Architectural Space

Design Computing and Cognition Conference, DCC’10, Stuttgart, Germany

Tasos Varoudis

1. Introduction

This research aims at understanding the impact of ambient displays on people’s movement in architectural space. As ambient displays gradually replace principal elements of architecture such as walls, they transform architectural space into a dynamic and ever-changing environment. The addition of such digital elements can affect people’s perception and understanding of space around them and thus can result to the formation of different movement patterns within space.
The study starts with the assumption that the topological and visual relations between physical spaces are two important factors that determine the distribution of people’s movement in space (Hillier, 2004). Even though there is a fair amount of research studying the relation between people and physical space through movement (Hillier and Hanson 1984, Turner 2001, Peponis 1997) there is a gap in considering ambient technologies as an element of space. Likewise openings that connect two physical worlds and act as a trigger for further movement, an ambient display can be seen as a link between physical and virtual worlds. This dynamic link can alter people’s perception of space and thus reshape movement patterns.
Therefore, this research tries to answer how ambient displays, when acting as a virtual extension of the physical space, by augmenting the visual boundaries, can change the direction of movement within architectural spaces.

2. Methodology

The study uses an experimental setting in order to study the effect of ambient displays on people’s movement. The experiment uses a set of interconnected corridors that lead to a space where the users can take their morning coffee regularly. The route includes a point of decision where you can turn right or left in order to reach their destination. The experiment is divided into two phases. The first phase starts by measuring the flow of people through the setting, in order to identify the patterns of movement along the different routes. The next phase of the experiment involves the introduction of an ambient display on one of the walls of the corridor leading to the decision point in order to examine the effect that it will have in the distribution of the movement. The ambient display shows a live video from the destination area thus playing the role of a digital transparency that connects the two physical spaces. This virtual extension of space is expected to act as a trigger to the users in order to move towards that route.

3. Discussion

Preliminary analysis of the experimental data reveals that placing an ambient display so that it virtually links two disconnected physical spaces influences the distribution of people’s movement. More specifically, the visual display seems to affect the distribution of visitors along the two alternative routes, provided that they take notice of it. Additionally, the visual display seems to have a more significant effect to people who are unfamiliar with the space, compared to those who are habitual users. Further analysis will be conducted for individuals as well as groups of people.


Hillier, B: 2004, Space is the machine, Syndicate Press,University of Cambridge, UK Hillier, B and Hanson, J: 1984, The Social Logic of Space, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.

Peponis, J: 1997, Geometries of Architectural Description: shape and spatial configuration, Space Syntax First International Symposium, vol.2 n.34, London.

Turner, A, Doxa, M, O’Sullivan, D and Penn, A: 2001, From isovists to visibility graphs: a methodology for the analysis of architectural space, Environment and Planning B: Planning and Design, vol. 28, pp.103-121

Leave a Reply