Curvilinearity in architecture: emotional effect of curvilinear forms in interior design



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Texas A&M University


People are becoming more aware of the relationships between the built environment and their physical and psychological well-being. This has encouraged numerous studies in the field of environment and behavior, and effects of architecture, urban design and architectural form on human response. In the realm of architectural form, some professionals, from "signature" architects to environmental and organic designers, are strong advocates of free-flowing curvilinear forms. They assume that the use of curvilinear forms is sympathetic to the body, mind and spirit, although there is little empirical research to confirm this claim. There is also little research on the topic of signature / star architects and their design methods. The purpose of this multi-method study was to investigate the emotional effects of curvilinear forms in interior architectural settings. The research involved qualitative and quantitative methodologies. In the qualitative phase, twelve signature architects, known for their use of curvilinear forms, were interviewed to examine the reasons and processes by which they applied curvature in their work. They were also asked to talk about their design process. In the quantitative phase, two modified interior residential views were ranked on their emotional load by 230 non-architect and 75 architect students in card-sorting tasks. In each view, architectural forms gradually changed from fully rectilinear to fully curvilinear. The data from both phases of the research was analyzed. The dissertation concludes by discussing (a) factors that separate signature architects from others (b) how signature architects design (c) how and why designers utilize curvature in the built environment, and (d) different emotional responses of designers and non-designers in response to curvature in architectural settings. In general, quantitative data indicates that non-architects show significant positive response to curvilinear architectural forms. Nonarchitects found curvilinear forms to be pleasant, elevating and reducing stress. The strongest relationship was recorded between curvature and feminine qualities of architectural space, which was shared by both architects and non-architects.