The Effect of Gender, Age, and Education in Extraordinary Aesthetic Experiences

“The Effect of Gender, Age, and Education in Extraordinary Aesthetic Experiences”

Authors: Julio Bermudez, Brandon Ro

Proceedings of the 44th Annual Conference of the Environmental Design Research Association, 2013


ABSTRACT: Quality is at the core of architectural value and performance. Yet it is hard to define, study, and ‘apply’, especially when we move beyond parameters of materiality, technology, or functionality. Yet it is in the elusive quality of ‘aesthetics’ where the public most readily finds the architect’s unique contribution. Although Vitruvius realized this dimension and called it ‘venustas’ (delight, beauty) 2,000 years ago, we have advanced little in understanding it beyond theories and generalizations. This is particularly true when trying to grasp the distinct psychological (i.e., intellectual, emotional), physical (i.e., body, sensations), and social (i.e., language, gender, education) traits that shape and characterize the phenomenology of venustas. This investigation uses science to approach the hitherto intractable experiential problem of architectural beauty. Specifically, this paper comes out of a six year long investigation seeking to empirically define venustas. The research effort centers on statistical and interpretive analyses of the largest database of extraordinary aesthetic experiences of architecture available. The quality and quantity of the gathered information is unprecedented: the database holds 2,872 individual testimonies (1,890 in English and 982 in Spanish) gauged through 27 interrelated variables that chart their phenomenological structure, process, and features. While we have shared results of this investigation elsewhere, we will present new findings related to whether and how gender; educational level (i.e., high school, some college, college, graduate school); educational background (i.e., law, engineering, architecture, humanities); and age affect the experience of venustas. Each dimension will be considered by itself first and then in relation to the others. We will also report on the impact that language/culture play regarding these four human dimensions.

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