Discover more from Cognitive Urbanism
Having trouble finding your way around a new neighborhood? Biometrics to the rescue!
Whenever we walk around someplace new, our minds are hard at work to orient and navigate. Just as we rely on Waze and Google Maps when driving around, our internal wayfinding processes are based on a much more advanced computing system: on our brains! Unconsciously, we seek out certain colors, shapes, materials, that all give us cues as to where to go (and where to avoid). For decades, urban planners, urban designers, and landscape architects have been keen to understand this navigational system so we can create places that people can more easily (and with less stress) get around.
Through a range of psychological research approaches, environmental designers have studied human behavior and learned key lessons around how wide paths should be and how close buildings should be to streets.
What has been lacking (up until now) is an understanding of how people respond on an unconscious level to getting around a place. My research with Ann Sussman has explored how important this innate perspective is to creating places that people want to be in and want to return to.
Partnering with the Devens Enterprise Commission in Massachusetts, my research team at Tufts University and the Human Architecture and Planning Institute looked at wayfinding from both a driver and pedestrian perspective. Here’s the key finding:
…the experience of moving through Devens could be improved and made safer for both pedestrians and drivers by adjusting the quality of walkway and cross walk design, adding bump outs, and in particular, creating appropriate patterning that fits what the brain needs to see on the sidewalks and crosswalks to make for pre-attentive attachment.
To learn more, listen to my podcast all about this research: Cognitive Urbanism on Apple Podcasts
Or read our article published recently in the Journal of Urban Design: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/13574809.2022.2118697
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