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Spatial congruence theory: visual cognition and wayfinding in the urban environment

Pinelo da Silva, J.D.; (2011) Spatial congruence theory: visual cognition and wayfinding in the urban environment. Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London).

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Walkability in urban environments is explicitly aimed at by policy makers. However, navigation, although a fundamental part of walkability, is typically absent from studies of pedestrian movement and has traditionally been separated from architectural practice. This becomes evident in urban design guidelines which seldom address navigation issues. Yes as urban environments grow, wayfinding becomes increasingly difficult. The performance of pedestrian navigation is closely related to urban configuration. However, the opportunities to alter configuration are rare and costly. Evidence shows that other physical properties also influence decision making during navigation. So, which 'non-configurational' features can designers use to influence navigability, and how should these be combined with 'configurational' properties? In this study, a detailed analysis of the visual experience of users while wayfinding in real environments through eye-tracking, is used to identify objects of attention and visual search behaviours, such as hesitation points, gazing direction and fixated elements, thus revealing which design features are more relevant to navigation. Evidence that the 'signified', rather than the 'signifier', is relevant to cognition, is studies through an analysis of declared preferences which explores the role of the presence of other pedestrians in wayfinding decision making. The results show high levels of attention to building edges and to pedestrians which reflects the importance of both configuration and meaning in wayfinding. The significance of the presence of people seems to partially explain the role that configurational intelligibility has on the level of navigability of a setting, by acting as a local cue for global configurational properties. These results suggest that features that presuppose usability may be the most relevant non-configurational features for wayfinding. This insight on the nature of spatial cognition in real large environments creates the potential to the development of an approach to design that is more centred on the user, and thus may inform the creation of user-oriented environments. Furthermore, exposing the rational behind one link between local information and global cognition emphasises the relevance and potential of a theory of spatial congruence.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: Spatial congruence theory: visual cognition and wayfinding in the urban environment
Language: English
Additional information: Permission for digitisation not received
UCL classification: UCL > School of BEAMS > Faculty of the Built Environment > Bartlett School > Bartlett School of Planning
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1302401
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