From Simple to Complex Configuration: Sustainability of Gestalt Principles of Visual Perception Within the Complexity Paradigm

The paper presents a design research project developed in 2006 and in 2007 at the Computational Design Research Lab (CoDeReL). CoDeReL is an elective graduate design research studio initiated in 2005 at the Middle East Technical University, Department of Architecture, to function as an integrated research and teaching structure. The double educational and research agenda of the studio aims at enhancing intellectual infrastructure for research and design in the architecture/technology interface and adresses various issues and problematics detected in the field of computational design research. One of the main objectives of the studio is to position computational design research in its current theoretical and epistemic context and to develop a consciousness of historical continuity within the disciplinary field of architecture. To this aim, design experiments at CoDeReL attempt to draw together contemporary and historical problem situations for the production of new and creative linkages fostering new knowledges and understandings of architectural evolution. The design research presented here is an attempt to re-contextualize and re-problematize the premises of the Gestalt theory of visual perception in the context of complex and unstable forms that now populate a new formal and plastic catalogue. Increasingly predictive and accurate formalist procedures set forth by diverse morphological theories in the rationalization of complex form seem unable to remedy for the challenge these forms pose to the limits of spontaneous intuition and visual perception. This challenge that would require a sharpening and augmentation of intuitionist and perceptual abilities in the apprehension of complex form is a rarely adressed problem in recent formal research. The absence of a new theory of visual perception brings to the fore a long trusted resource in the field; the gestalt principles of visual perception. These basic principles now call for a reconsideration as they are confronting challenges posed by geometric and conceptual developments in the complexity paradigm, and that need to be adressed in terms of theways in which they might affect visual perception. The research agenda of the studio in Spring 2006 and 2007 is set to test the Gestalt principles of visual perception in various design exercises experimenting with the sustainability of Gestalt principles. These exercises proceed along a simplicity-complexity axis on which it is attempted to define a conceptual and geometric threshold beyond which the Gestalt laws of perceptual organization would become problematic.


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Citation Formats
Z. Mennan, “From Simple to Complex Configuration: Sustainability of Gestalt Principles of Visual Perception Within the Complexity Paradigm,” ODTÜ Mimarlık Fakültesi Dergisi, vol. 26, no. 2, pp. 309–323, 2009, Accessed: 00, 2020. [Online]. Available: