NESHAN, The Iranian Graphic Design Magazine

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Neshan 27


Re-perceiving Urban Space Undergoing Change

Pegah Ahmadi

The pictures of urban spaces, which accumulate in one’s mind, are in a constant state of transformation. As an individual moves through a space, at every instant new mental images arise while others fade away. The process by which space is perceived originates in the differentiating restlessness between the birth of one image and the fading of another. Only between these two circumstances can a mental image of space emerge. Here, the question arises: How does one perceive an urban space, considering the fact that the perceptual characteristics of the space are in a constant state of transformation?

Urban Space
Urban space is not circumscribed to the infrastructures, but rather is equally defined by the life between the infrastructures, the life between the buildings. This is designated as the spirit of the urban space that is constantly created and fluctuated by the mental status of the urbanites. They are likewise physical infrastructure equally subject to change.

Urban Space and change
Urban spaces are not finished constructions. They are in constant state of change. They shrink and grow, continuously. The notion of urban space must be reconsidered in terms of activity. Events are taking place in time-space continuum and transformations within the objective world can only be explained with regard to such a dimension of activity.

Urban Space in relation to man
This transformation is a result of the correlation between man and space. Urban spaces have been perpetually shaped by the imprints that we leave while moving through them. In this matrix of bodily rhythms, we concurrently absorb and decode the urban landscape. As such, we inhabit a provisional space in transit through which we perceive and construct our own spaces.

Perception of urban space
Human perception is determined not only by a visual system but also by acquired experience, culture, temperament and current purpose of observing. Thus the perception of particular places will alter for different observers.

Mental and material space
Material space is defined as continuous extension in three directions. Mental space, however, is an image of material space. Early psychologists believed that there was an exact correspondence between a mental image and the physical world. Now, however, there is evidence to show that the resultant images are manipulated primarily by consciousness. In other words what we conceive as space in our every day life is not a real space but the translation of it.

The reality of space
According to the Oxford English Dic¬tionary the word space has two meanings: the first denotes time or dura¬tion and the second area or extension. In physics, space has three dimensions and is considered as a volume. Comparatively, four-dimensional space has an extra coordinate axis, orthogonal to the other three. Being three-dimensional, we are only able to see the world in two dimensions. A four-dimensional being would be able to see the world in three dimensions. In four-dimensional space-time nothing changes. Events do not happen; they are just there, and we come across them.

Space, consciousness and the perception of change
The fact is that our consciousness organizes pictures we receive from the environment as a whole in memory. For instance, when an urbanite steps in an urban space for the first time, the environment produces two impressions on him. One is destined to last while the other will constantly change. If he recurs, after long time, to his impression, he is surprised at the inexpressible change which has taken place. It seems that the objects constantly impressing themselves on his mind. Like him they have lived and like him they have grown old. Yet, we barely perceive the change, unless we are warned of it. The reason is that our social life is more practically important to us than our individual existence.
The configuration of the urban space is constantly in a process of adjusting its spatial image in one’s mind to resemble reality. This process initiates from the shortcoming of human sight. Nevertheless, there is mental synthesis that occurs when the human mind attempts to overcome the entity which is superior to its perceptional devices. We can deduce that these two competitive worlds, mental and material, in reality do not match very well according to the limitations of our field of observation. The bridge between these two worlds, however, is nothing more than the notion of change.

*Pegah Ahmadi graduated from the University of Illinois, Chicago (MFA in graphic design) at the Basel School of Design in 2010. Here you may read a summary of her thesis project. She earned a second master degree in industrial design from the University of Art in Tehran (2008) as well as a bachelor degree in ID from Alzahra University. While studying in Basel, she was actively focused on design research projects, namely ‘Portrait and Identity’ for eikones, ‘urban space documentation’ for Novartis and Imagery for People with Disability assigned by EBGB in Bern.

Pegah Ahmadi

is an Iranian multidisciplinary designer based in Chicago. She not only has explored the boundaries of various disciplines in design but also that of several countries. Shortly after she started her professional life as a furniture designer in 2005 she began teaching design foundation at university of applied science and technology in Tehran. In 2011 she taught a poster workshop in Baskent university in Turkey where she had a chance to explore cultural differences and similarities in design. Currently Pegah works in Morningstar Inc. headquarter designing print an digital publications. Pegah has received her second master degree in graphic design from Basel school of design in Switzerland and her first master degree in industrial design from university of Art in Iran.

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