Comfort Defined in Alzheimer’s Special Care Facilities:
Rules for Comfort, PART 2
by JoAnn Shroyer
In most professions, there are related terms or a working vocabulary that can be identified with the particular area to communicate and exchange ideas with others. Kilmer and Kilmer (1999) and Pile (2007) note that the elements and principles of design can be thought of as a vocabulary of the language of design. For the purposes of this report on comfort defined for individuals diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, the vocabulary of the elements of design are space, line, shape, form, texture, color, and light.
Interior design is the art that forms, defines, and enhances interior space. According Allen, Jones, and Simpson (2004), space in the built environment can be defined as the area found within an enclosure. Interior space is the area where people live, work, and play. Space is the essence of all built environments and is undefined until an area of reference is established. The success of an environment is often determined by the function and quality of the space.
The psychological and emotional qualities of space form the foundation for the culturally and socially shared schemata people develop to understand and evaluate physical and emotional well-being, security, and safety in the built environment. Comfort is created and articulated in the space.
Beitler and Lockhark (1969) state that line is an abstraction that forms the direction or feeling of design. Line is the most basic of all the elements of design. Length is the only dimension of line, but line may move in any direction. Line may possess distinguishing physical characteristics as thick, thin, smooth, fuzzy, long, short, jagged, curvy, straight, etc. The expressive character of a line is determined by its direction and physical qualities and may be defined as exciting, quiet, dignified, angry, active, happy, pleasant, or calming. Straight lines express force. Horizontal lines suggest repose and calmness. Vertical lines communicate activity. Zigzag lines translate excitement or agitation, while curvy lines convey calmness. Therefore, lines can be weak and uncertain or strong and purposeful. Line is used in the built environment in concert with the other design elements to establish psychological and emotional responses. Line compels the human to be visually directed and evokes an emotional response. The quality, context, and harmonious application of line in the built environment establish the individual’s psychological and emotional response. For instance, curved lines are pleasant, but too many curved lines can create restlessness while jagged lines can create anxiousness and sometimes fear.
Line is the element that creates shape. Shape is the result of bringing the ends of a line together (Beitler & Lockhart, 1969) and is defined as the outline or identifiable contours of an object (Kilmer & Kilmer, 1992). The circle, oval, square, rectangle, or triangle are shaped and are composed of straight, angular, or curved lines. Shapes are considered dominant elements in the built environment.
The skillful combination of the three basic shapes or forms is employed to enhance the space of an interior environment; however, too many shapes can cause confusion and complexity that breeds discomfort (Allen, Jones, & Stimpson, 2004). Shapes, just as lines, produce different visual effects. A tall, rectilinear shape can convey a feeling of clarity, stability, and formality. The same rectilinear shape turned horizontal conveys a restful feeling. However, if using a diagonal object, it becomes a dynamic shape.
Triangular shapes seem to communicate direction and are dynamic due to the angular quality of the shape. Curved shapes that encapsulate movement create a feeling of continuity, motion, and change. Curved shapes are also reflective of nature and natural objects giving the observer a pleasant feeling (Kilmer & Kilmer, 1992). Curved shapes are important tools used to provide a comfortable environment, but should be skillfully combined with other shapes to avoid monotony.
When a two-dimensional shape composed of lines takes on a third dimension, the shape becomes form. Form is three-dimensional and exhibits volume that inhabits or fills space. “The manipulation of space creates form, and, in turn, form gives space dimension and mass” (Kilmer & Kilmer, 1992, p. 104). Form can imply or exhibit weight and can include substance, such as solid or liquid form, vaporous elements, or internal structure (a skeletal framework).
Texture is the quality of a surface that refers to the visual or tactile characteristics of natural and man-made objects or materials. The terminology used to describe textures is associated with both sight and touch. In other words, one may experience the rough texture of an actual brick not only by viewing the brick but also by touching the brick. However, the photograph of the same brick may appear rough to the human eye, but when physically touched, the surface is smooth. The texture of the photographed brick is visual and is called simulated or illusionary. Texture is one of the elements of design that incorporate two senses, both visual and tactile.
The variety of textures within a space contributes to the physical and psychological comfort of the built environment. Smooth textures (glass or metal) can relay a feeling of coldness when they dominate a space, while plush (velvet) textures and objects of nature (lambs ear plant) communicate a sense of warmth and comfort. To create a sense of comfort, texture should correspond to the individual’s perception of the way an object feels, The roughness of sandpaper, the smoothness of glass, the softness of fleece, and the shininess of growing leaves all produce a particular sensation because of previous associations with these textures. The competent merging of different textures with other elements of design can culminate in visual and tactile comfort.
Researchers have found that color and emotional responses are closely linked, eliciting a response. Color has a major impact in the built environment and is a critical factor of comfort. Most comforting colors are associated with light colors, such as blue, green, and yellow. Color preference is usually a cultural phenomenon, whereas color response is a combination of reactions to physical phenomena and cultural associations. Both aspects of color play an important role in achieving a level of comfort in the built environment.
Closely related to color is light; without light, there could be no color. As evidenced above, studies have indicated that humans have a direct reaction to color and also to light levels – for example, a person becomes depressed in the winter, but more energetic during sunlit seasons. According to Ladau, Smith, and Place (1989), at full intensity, the level of stimulation a color generates can be correlated to the speed of each spectral wavelength. Red has shorter wavelengths that produce a quiet, calming atmosphere (Ladau, Smith, & Place, 1989). Green, the color of nature, is generally perceived as being tranquil, emoting a sense of security (Ladau, Smith, & Place, 1989). The use of color to supplement daylight or other light in interior spaces is a vital tool that the designer can implement to promote a sense of physical and mental comfort. Sharpe (1974) indicates that the study of color is vast and complex, touching many other fields of research from sociology to music. Calmeson (2000) notes that humans learn to associate objects, places, and events with certain colors from a young age, thus establishing color as a tool to enable a feeling of comfort.
For the aging adult, the perception of color and objects is affected by the change in the fluid that supports the eye. The change in the fluid of the eye causes people to be more sensitive to glare that is a result of the inadequacy of the eye to adapt to changes in light levels. Another issue related to color perception is the yellowing of the lenses that alters the perception of blue light. This change results in colors being dulled or yellowed in hue. For this reason, designers should carefully select colors for the special care facility that is used by individuals diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.
Without appropriate lighting, adequate visual perception may be altered. Light brings life to the built environment. Light not only allows individuals to see, but also affects human behavior and attitudes. As mentioned previously, depression in an individual may be experienced on a dull and dreary day, whereas happiness and hope invigorates one on a sun-filled afternoon. Light also has the ability to create dramatic effects by the contrast of brightness and darkness. Lighting levels can create different atmospheres from quiet and calming to active and stimulating. Lighting is essential to every aspect of life.
Light as an element of design is critical for the appreciation of color and objects that are contained within an interior environment. The color of an object is a result of three factors: 1) the way that the object absorbs and reflects light, 2) the kind of light that makes the object visible, and 3) the physical condition of the viewer’s eyes. Without appropriate lighting, adequate visual perception may be altered. Light brings life to the physical environment. Energy is embodied in light. Light not only allows individuals to see but also affects behavior and attitudes. Depression in an individual may abound on a dull and dreary day where happiness and hope invigorates one on a sun filled afternoon. Light also has the ability to create different atmospheres from quiet and calming to active and stimulating.
Light as an element of design is critical for the appreciation of color and objects that are contained within an interior environment. The color of an object is a result of three factors: 1) the way the object absorbs and reflects light, 2) the kind of light that makes the object visible, and 3) the physical condition of the viewer’s eyes.
Lighting for the aging person is critical in that three times the illumination is recommended for the aging person to perform tasks compared to a younger individual. The aging eye is susceptible to glare and fatigues quickly. Older eyes are unable to adjust rapidly to changes in light levels that cause strain on the eye resulting in visual fatigue. The designed environment for the aging population should address the reduction of direct glare and spectral glare. Direct glare is the unnecessary and unwanted illumination from a lighting source. Koncelik (2003) notes that indirect glare is glare reflected off surfaces while spectral glare is the star-burst effect of light reflecting from a highly polished surface.
A well-designed environment for the aging population should provide adequate and brighter lighting in areas where the tasks to be conducted need definition.
Allen, P.S., Jones, L.M. & Stimpson, M.F. (2004). Beginnings of Interior Environments.
New Jersey: Pearson Education, Inc.
Beitler, E.J. & Lockhart, B. (1969). Design for You. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Kilmer, R. & Kilmer, W. O. (1999). Designing Interiors. New York: Harcourt Brace
Jovanovich College Publishers.
Ladau, R. F., Smith, B. K., & Place, J. (1989). Color in Interior Design and Architecture. New York: VanNostrand Reinhold.
Sharpe, D. T. (1974). The Psychology of Color and Design. Chicago, IL: Nelson-Hall
Company Professional/Technical series.