Evaluating Interior Architectural Elements That Influence Perception of Spaciousness in Isolated, Confined, and Extreme Environments

Evaluating Interior Architectural Elements That Influence Perception of Spaciousness in Isolated, Confined, and Extreme Environments

Berk Diker, Halime Demirkan
DOI: 10.4018/IJDIBE.306255
(Individual Articles)
No Current Special Offers


This research aims to understand the factors that contribute to the quality of life within isolated, confined, extreme (ICE) environments by investigating the architectural elements that affect an individual’s spatial perception, their manifestation in ICE environments, and how spatial confinement and isolation contribute to changes in an individual’s perception of spaciousness. The researchers performed an in-depth examination on three different habitats, designed to simulate life in ICE environments, to identify which architectural elements were important contributors to positive and negative changes in spaciousness. For further explorations, fourteen design professionals were asked to evaluate these habitats using the Spaciousness and Crampedness Scale (SCS) and measuring the relative estimation in error of habitats’ areas. Afterward, the evaluations were compared with the examinations. The results indicate that the environment’s geometry, lighting, color, and texture significantly contribute to perceived spaciousness when evaluated through qualitative and quantitative methods.
Article Preview


Three characteristics define isolated, confined, and extreme (ICE) environments. The first one is the isolation of an individual from the typical social environment, like family or friends, for a prolonged duration. Second is the physical constraint of an individual’s environment and the heavy restrictions on mobility. The third is the constant presence of significant physical dangers caused by external conditions of the environment (Carrère, 1990). These factors comprise an ICE environment’s main stressors that could lead to unique living scenarios and coping mechanisms. Due to most ICE environments’ intrinsic nature, especially those in outer space, most of the research on these issues is performed either on analogous environments (submarines, arctic stations) or in smaller-scale controlled experiments (HERA, HI-SEAS, SIRIUS/NEK).

There is a large body of knowledge exploring the effects of isolation and confinement going back almost 60 years, primarily focusing on team and individual effectiveness for given tasks. Certain psychological occurrences are commonly observed in individuals and groups exposed to ICE environments for long durations and are often among the main research areas in ICE studies. These occurrences are often negative and manifest themselves as lack of motivation, a decline in alertness and mental functioning, aggressive or depressed moods, social withdrawal, splintering and polarization among group members, or biological disturbances such as sleeplessness (Connors et al. 2005; Evans et al. 1988; Suedfeld and Steel 2000). The individuals in such environments reported depression, irritability, aggressive behavior, insomnia, absent-mindedness, lack of concentration, and memory problems (Strange & Youngmen, 1971).

However, there is a lack of research on the impact of the physical environment on people and the subjective experiences of those who reside in ICE environments. For example, in many cases, the lack of adequate living accommodations becomes a significant determinant and a stressor because of the inability of an individual to put the necessary distance between themselves and the others. At the same time, lack of space causes the users to invade each other’s personal spaces, although unwillingly. Making apparent a characteristic one could not disregard is that people are territorial creatures and like to control their environment to achieve their desired level of privacy. That is one of the significant issues in such limited environments. An environment designed to increase the perception of available space could improve the well-being of both individuals and groups that occupy the environment. The two major obstacles of such a design are the feelings of isolation and confinement, which are also the key characteristics of an ICE environment; thus, they are, in almost all cases, inevitable outcomes and require extensive work to address. A design that avoids addressing such issues would be significantly less successful in improving well-being than one that does. Various design techniques were developed to address similar issues in different environments in the literature and identified various architectural elements that could influence an individual's perceived isolation and confinement to treat the negative effects that are bound to appear. However, the research on confined environments and their impact on spatial cognition is still a developing field and it requires much more experimentation.

Complete Article List

Search this Journal:
Volume 12: 1 Issue (2024): Forthcoming, Available for Pre-Order
Volume 11: 3 Issues (2022)
Volume 10: 2 Issues (2021)
Volume 9: 2 Issues (2020)
Volume 8: 2 Issues (2019)
View Complete Journal Contents Listing