Consuming Architecture: On the Occupation, Appropriation and Interpretation of Buildings
In conceiving the built environment, architects tend to establish a material setting for people's life. However, since an environment acquires meaning in a person's interactions with it, it is architects' perpetual challenge to anticipate the interpretation of future users.
This research particularly considers the point of view of people with autism spectrum conditions. Due to their particular cognitive style, these people view, and engage with, the environment in a characteristic way. In a study of a collective housing facility, specifically designed with an eye to occupants diagnosed with autism, we investigated the meaning of the building in both the design and the everyday use of the house.
Interviews with actors involved in the design process and observations in the resulting housing facility showed how the story of the building opens up in different directions. While the material setting of the house is enveloped in different interpretations, we try to unravel how people with different relationships to the building qualify it in their personal way.
These different qualifications of the building reveal that the intended meaning of the house's design is extended in the action of dwelling. Through mutual adjustments, the house (as a built environment) and the occupants (with their own motivations and experiences) continuously evolve. Moreover, all occupants, routed by personal interactions with the house, seem to have their own conception of this built environment.
In addition to the initial intentions of the design team, different versions of the designed environment exist in the worlds of different people, and each of them performs his/her own version of the house.