Mapping Ambiances: a synopsis of theory and practices in an interdisciplinary perspective

Barbara E.A. Piga, Cecilia Chiarini Irene Vegetti, Marco Boffi Nicola Rainisio, Aurore Bonnet Valerio Signorelli, Vincent Tourre, Myriam Servières

Keywords: ambiances; interdisciplinary; synopsis

Mapping Ambiances is a research carried out by an international and multidisciplinary team, involving research laboratories working within the themes of multisensory perception and experiential simulation, namely Laboratorio di Simulazione Urbana “Fausto Curti” (DAStU, Politecnico di Milano, Milano – Italy) and CRENAU (UMR 1563 AAU CNRS/MCC/ECN Nantes – France), and the Department of Cultural Heritage and Environment (UniMi, Milano - Italy). The aim of the research is to give a wide and depth definition of the Ambiance notion, starting from interviews to researchers belonging to different disciplines that deal with urban issues. In order to define a comprehensive interdisciplinary methodology, the outcomes were analysed, systematically reorganized and represented from a disciplinary, thematic and geographical point of view. The final result allowed to define overlaps and discrepancies among disciplines and approaches from a theoretical and experimental perspective; this framework has been the basis for the development of a proposal for a novel interdisciplinary approach to ambiances. By taking into account different disciplines that deal with the issue of ambiance in its different nuances (Amphoux et Al., 2004), it was possible to investigate the mutual relationship between people and the urban environment through a sensory and experiential dimension (Rasmussen, 1964; Tuan, 1977; Pallasmaa, 1996; Thibaud, 2002; Pallasmaa, 2014; Thibaud, 2015; Piga & Morello, 2015). This is of course related to the sense of presence in a place and the relative emotional state springing out of it, i.e. the subjective reaction to a specific environment (Pallasmaa et Al, 2014). In order to better understand how different disciplines approach the issue of ambiance, a theoretical study and an investigation based on an audio-video recorded interview has been carried out. The aim of the interview was to analyze and compare theories and practices adopted by researchers with different academic backgrounds and provenience. The experts were asked to explain the theoretical approach and analytical methods that they adopt to capture the Ambiance, as well as to provide examples of application of the methodology of a case study. Moreover, during the interviews, the experts were asked to rough out a possible procedure of investigation of the Ambiance of an urban context characterized by the presence of a university campus, starting from their own research experience. They suggested the suitable analytical process that they would have applied into the given context; they also proposed the use of some specific tools, whether needed; finally, they recommended a range of relevant authors to interview, specific bibliographic references and case studies. This was an important contribution that will guide a further implementation. The comparative analysis of the interviews and the systematization of results enabled the elaboration of a synoptic matrix composed by different layers: an interactive map that graphically locates the interviewed researchers from a geographical and disciplinary point of view; their theoretical approach to the concept of Ambiance; the methodology and adopted tools. This transversal matrix highlights whether comparable or complementary issues are present, and it was the baseline for elaborating a novel interdisciplinary methodology to investigate the urban ambiances. A future development of the study will be centred on testing the proposed methodology to a real case study. The overall outcomes of the research are essentially two. The first one is ambitious and aims to set up a methodology for combining different disciplines and approaches together in order to elaborate an interdisciplinary framework; the matrix is designed for receiving future implementations. The development have a twofold mission: to deliver the Ambiances synopsis and to provide the basis for a temporal analysis, i.e. the evolution of approaches. The second outcome aims at sharing the results in the academic debate at the transnational level in order to extend the concept of Ambiance beyond the French linguistic environment and disciplinary bounds; in fact, the topics of perception, experience, genius loci are investigated at the international level without sharing a common ground (Thibaud, 2014), and this work could be a useful reference to foster interdisciplinary collaboration. References Amphoux, P., Thibaud, J.-P., & Chelkoff, G. (2004). Ambiances en débats. A la Croisée. Pallasmaa, J. (1996). The Eyes of the Skin: Architecture and the Senses (1° ed.). London and Lanham, MD: Academy Editions. Pallasmaa, J. (2014). Space, place and atmosphere. Emotion and peripherical perception in architectural experience. Lebenswelt. Aesthetics and philosophy of experience., 0(4). Pallasmaa, J., Böhme, G., Griffero, T., Thibaud, J.-P., & Tidwell, P. (2015). Architecture and Atmosphere. Peripheral Projects. Piga, B., & Morello, E. (2015). 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