How architects imagine the way people move in buildings that do not yet exist

In his paper "Imagination as Joint Activity: The Case of Architectural Interaction", Keith M. Murphy examines how "imagining can emerge from a group ofinteractants who use many semiotic media,including talk, gestures, and drawings, to imagine something together". He actually shows how architects imagine the way people move in buildings that do not yet exist. He explains, for that matter, the role of imagination is constituted as a social and face-to-face interaction. An excerpt that I found interesting:

What we have then is all three architects visualizing and enacting the space as if it were a“ real” loading dock to clarify its use and orient the other architects to their understanding of the design.

This has a utilitarian purpose in that when designing large buildings it is extremely important that everyone on the team is on the same page interms of where the design is at any given moment and where it is heading. But it also has more cognitive implications. For the architects, designing a building often requires taking on the perspective of a future user experiencing the building to work out potential design kinks. By talking about a design in groups, an empathetic viewpoint is constructed through the interactive give-and-take flow of the conversation. Talk, gestures, and the drawing under discussion all in combination serve to structure the kinds of things the group can imagine as if they were the users, and this group imagining facilitates getting the job of being an architect done.

Why do I blog this? because it's another pertinent example of the socio-cognitive processes at stake during a group activity showing that imagination can be more than a solely individualistic cognitive activity.

Murphy, K.M. (2004). Imagination as Joint Activity: The Case of Architectural Interaction, Mind, Culture, and Activity, 11 (4), 267-278.