Visual perception of the built environment in virtual reality: a systematic characterization of human aesthetic experience in spaces with curved boundaries
Visual perception of architectural spaces and human aesthetic experience in these spaces have recently received considerable interest in cognitive science. However, it has been difficult to construe a common understanding of aesthetic experience for architectural space, since different studies use different scales to measure aesthetic experiences. In this interdisciplinary study spanning cognitive science and architecture, we aim to provide an empirically driven systematic characterization of human aesthetic experience and investigate what aspects of the architectural spaces affect aesthetic experience. To this end, we manipulated various architectural variables including the shape of the curvilinear boundaries of architectural spaces as well as their size, light, texture, and color in virtual reality. We then had people evaluate these spaces by exhausting a large list of commonly used scales in the literature and applied principal component analysis to reveal the key dimensions of aesthetic experience. Our findings suggest that human aesthetic experience can be reduced to 3 key dimensions, namely familiarity, excitement, and fascination. Each of these dimensions are differentially affected by the various architectural variables revealing their differences. In sum, our study provides a comprehensive framework to characterize human aesthetic experience in virtual architectural spaces with curved boundaries.