Airdate: Sep 07, 2015
Scientist: Colin Ellard
Meet a environmental psychologist who studies the interactions between people and places
Ellard: We're looking up at the main tower which is gothic style architecture.
Ambience: Bells of Riverside Church
Buildings, cities, landscapes they can intimidate, bore or inspire us. I'm Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet.
Ellard: My main interest is in how the design of any kind of built environment, ranging from interiors to larger institutional buildings all the way up to urban streetscapes. How all those things influence how people feel, how they think and how they behave.
Collin Ellard is the author of Places of the Heart. He's a psychogeographer who studies the interactions between people and places.
Ellard: We are standing outside Riverside Church on the west side of Manhattan. It's of course an impressively large space, I believe it's the largest church in the United States. You can see the tower was built in segments. Notice that as the segments rise in height, they become smaller and smaller.
That's something that actually works with the way that we normally perceive the distances and sizes of objects. I'm looking at cars now going up and down the street. The size of the image of the car decreases as the car get farther away from us. That's sort of obvious.
But if you design a structure so that you are deliberately making the segments recede in size as they get farther from the eye, you're actually amplifying that effect, producing a perceptual illusion that the tower is even higher than it really is. Even before you get inside the building you are beginning to develop that sense of awe, the bigness of the thing is produced by this clever perceptual trick.
Pulse of the Planet is presented in part by Virginia Tech, inventing the future through a hands-on approach to education and research.