Arch. Myriam B. Mahiques Curriculum Vitae

Monday, October 12, 2009

Urban Image Analysis through Perception

Facades in La Boca, Buenos Aires. See the cables, wires, hanging clothes. Personal archives.

A lot has been advanced in the possible representations of a city, and the most significant changes have arisen in the abstraction of images that represent the complex urban phenomena with a simple reading: the development of Google Earth of public and free access, improved satelital images, digital images in general. The whole access to information that we are allowed, added to the multiple digital tools, makes us reconsider which is the best visual way of analyzing the city.

Although the urban image is fundamentally built with elements studied as objective realities where the researcher supposes the urban fabric as the only geometric constituent of form, we intend to speak of sensitive experimentation, keeping in mind all the senses. The tact, related with the vision, the sounds and aromas, contribute to the apprehension of the materiality, its distances and depth, everything possible thanks to the cooperation of the haptic memory.
¨Perceptions are framed by experience and motives, and therefore images and symbols play an important role in sharing thought and action. It would be foolish to claim that all studies of ¨objective¨ morphology ignore human agency, but such studies certainly have tended to leave human action implicit in the results…¨. (M. Conzen, p.10, 2001)
An authentic experience of the city consists then, in the approach and confrontation of the building; in the act of enter and look through a window more than the window in itself; to occupy the space of cold-heat, instead of examining objects that produce it. The lived space always transcends the geometry and mensurability (J. Pallasmaa), and the understanding that the space outside the building is used differently from the interior space, will conform a transition area that is a representation of the dependence among internal and external areas.
Humans take the information of the built environment and understand it according to their own cognitive capacity and their point of view of models of interactions in the real world. Therefore, the resultant is IMAGE PLUS BEHAVIOR. What suggests that the urban images we analize, will include a logic of image with all its plastic-geometric attributes and a social intrinsic behavior that responds to the social group.
In facades, it is recommendable to utilize pictures that reflect the user's real perception, not by means of individual elements, but as a systems of configurations of great richness of shapes. The researcher-designer will also contribute his knowledge to interpret what is visually significant for the user; the elements that the users have incorporated along the history, should be considered like inseparable part of the building to analyze.
So, we are joining here the concepts of OBSERVATION AND PERCEPTION.

This is an interior patio of a "conventillo" in La Boca, Buenos Aires. Notice again, the repetitive elements: wires, water pipes exposed, clothes. Personal archives. 
This is the Fourier transform corresponding to the patio above. The Fourier transform application has the quality of showing hidden patterns. Notice the repetitive elements are clearly exposed in the Fourier analysis. Personal archives

It might be questionable then, if we speak of perception, how many elements we will include in our image cutting. In my work on La Boca immigrant neighborhood, Buenos Aires, I have proceeded to analyze pictures of the area through the years. The pictures from the museums and those of conventillos interiors published in "Todo es Historia" (Everything is History) by Félix Luna, show the same domestic praxis until the present time, to hang clothes crossing the patios; addition of strings or wires to cables of illumination, exposed water pipes, etc. This demonstrates the users's intentions that have taken root in the time and were included in my considerations.

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