Measuring Architectural Phenomenology through Qualitative Analysis

“Measuring Architectural Phenomenology through Qualitative Analysis: Studying Written Narratives of Extraordinary Architectural Experiences.”

edraABSTRACT: How can designers and researchers investigating the aesthetic experience of architecture attempt to measure its benefits? One method receiving attention from healthcare, educational, and religious architecture is evidence-based design – the use of best-practices and evidence to inform architectural decision-making. In an effort to expand the available literature and body of research in these areas, scholars have often sought to gather empirical evidence through survey research. One challenge arising out of surveys, however, is how to scientifically analyze large numbers of qualitative accounts of architectural experiences. This problem (and its solution) is not uncommon in other disciplines (e.g., psychology, education, anthropology), yet it is something not usually addressed in architecture.

This paper offers an example of how to analyze large quantities of written narratives of “extraordinary architectural experiences” and measure their interpretive validity. The 700+ written narratives in English (totaling approximately 82,500 words) were analyzed by three distinct individuals known as coders. Consequently, this study presents the unique relationship between the internal (subjective) and external (objective) experiential qualities used in the story-telling process, thus allowing a rare opening into the seemingly intractable experiential problem of the “extraordinary” in architecture. The qualitative analysis from this study helps produce a more precise, empirically-based, psychological, embodied social map of the phenomenology of the architectural extraordinary.

CITATION: Bermudez, Julio, and Brandon Ro. “Measuring Architectural Phenomenology through Qualitative Analysis: Studying Written Narratives of Extraordinary Architectural Experiences.” In Building with Change: Proceedings of the 45th Annual Conference of the Environmental Design Research Association, edited by Jeffrey A. Carney and Kristi Cheramie, 386-87. New Orleans, LA: Environmental Design Research Association, 2014.

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