Document Type


Date of Award

Spring 5-31-1992

Degree Name

Master of Architecture - (M.Arch.)


School of Architecture

First Advisor

Mark A. Hewitt

Second Advisor

Peter C. Papademetriou

Third Advisor

Susan Steubing


Known phenomenal techniques found in the psychology of perception are combined with the architectural design of five non-classroom art environments in which children experience and understand visual arts. The art environments are: (1) Land Marks, (2) Art Marks, (3) Color Connections, (4) Art Openings, and (5) Art Amplitude. Drawing from research conducted on cognitive learning theory and information gathered from site visit interviews, cognitive learning concepts were incorporated into the design of the art environments. Five categories of perceptual phenomenon were used as the bases for the architectural design of a visual arts center for children. The categories are: (1) General perceptual concepts, (2) Perceptual constancies, (3) perceptual selection processes, (4) perceptual organizational processes, and (5) depth and distance clues. In addition, a set of research principles were also incorporated into the art environment designs, based on information collected from site interviews. The research principles cover topics involving: kinaesthetic activity, interaction which includes both active and reflective spaces, areas for sharing ideas and relating experiences and memories with other people, designs which encourage connections and memories of beauty in every day objects and experiences.

In the design of Land Marks, using the vocabulary of point, line and plane, children will be introduced to the perception of movement using a succession of stationary design elements. They will experience how changing the brightness of a surface or object changes their perception of the size and distance of these elements. They will also learn how perceptual constancies in the shape, color, size and location of an incomplete image may be used to perceive the qualities of known objects as complete objects, regardless of the angle, distance, or context of the observed object.

In the design of Art Openings, childrens' exploration of art forms will be extended using circles, squares, and triangles. In these art environments, the emphasis is on learning to compare and contrast both two and three dimensional images and objects. Within the formal representations of circular, square and triangular art environments, children will playfully explore the characteristics of each geometry. They will learn what is inside, what is outside, what is up and what is down, what is an outline, a shape and a form. These explorations will help children to set up rules for grouping certain patterns together. From this, they will begin to understand sensory patterns. Examples of perceptual techniques used in these art environments involve developing a child's familiarity with geometric forms through repetition alone, by contrasting and comparing the size or intensity of geometric forms and spaces.

The design of the Art Amplitude art environment combines playful experience and actual practice in the spatial and exhibit arrangements. In this environment, children will begin to understand how depth and distance cluses are used to create spatial images. The concepts of linear perspective, aerial perspective and gradient of texture are incorporated into the design of this art environment to help children experience and learn about creating images with depth and distance.

Finally, the design of one section of the Art Amplitude art environment will organize space to be reminiscent of an attic in a house. The "artifacts" found in the attic will be actual examples of children's art. The attic is intended to be a reflective area where children can see the value of self expression and connect with others of their own age who may live in other parts of the country or other parts of the world.

The work presented here is dedicated to the students and teachers of Ulm, Germany who provided the inspiration for my ideas in 1972 and to my husband, Dennis, who provided the support and endless encouragement I needed to complete my graduate architecture thesis in 1992.

Included in

Architecture Commons



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