Georgi Krutikov, “The Architectural Research Laboratory in the Architecture Faculty of the VKhUTEMAS-VKhUTEIN: Report on its first two years by Ladovskii’s assistant in the Lab’s operation” (1928)

From Stroitel’naia promyshlennost 1928 (no. 5, pgs. 372-375)

Psychotechnics, having established methods for the professional selection of workers for physical and mental work, is conquering ever new fields of application.  America, where psychotechnics was born and developed, uses it widely to establish the so-called ‘psychological profile’ of talents at entry to University.  Experience has shown the accuracy and relevance of these experiments.  In the USSR, psychotechnics has penetrated into diverse fields, amongst them the academic life of certain Higher Education establishments (VUZi), having established a scientific method for selection and for assessment of progress.

Up till now we have felt very acutely the absence of any sort of scientific approach in the determining of aptitude for those entering architectural higher education.  The existing view, which holds that capacities in drawing define capacity for art, and hence also architecture, has to be regarded as entirely without foundation.  The capacity to organize spatial forms is absolutely not connected directly with capacities to depict in a fine-art manner on a plane.  Suffice it to recall, that the majority of sculptors are not very good at drawing. […]

The Architecture Faculty of VKhUTEIN, having organized a laboratory for scientific investigation of questions of architecture, has set off on the path that was long ago identified and its first results in this field are to be welcomed.

[…]

The fundamental task of the VKhUTEIN Architectural Laboratory is the creation of a scientifically-founded and experimentally-proven basis for architectural questions that could supplement the existing methods which depend on individual intuition.

The programme of the laboratory falls into three groups of questions.  To characterize these I quote some of the most interesting questions they tackle.

GROUP 1: Questions of the analysis of elements of architecture [Rationalist ASNOVA group]:

a) study of the effect of elements of architecture (form, color, volume, space etc.) on the psyche;

b) the influence of the mutual interactions of the elements of architecture (for example, form and color; color and space and so on);

c) multi-faceted working out and experimental verification of spatial disciplines.

GROUP 2: Questions establishing the links between architecture and the social factors of the way of life, as well as technical and economic factors:

a) architectural sociology, architectural form and its surroundings, architecture and the new way of life, etc.;

b) the functional method of thinking in architecture and evaluation of it;

c) the interactions of ideas of progressive architecture and progressive technology;

d) criticism of the technical norms operating on the architect;

e) architectural standards;

f) N.O.T. in the creative work of the architect and the techniques of architectural designing.

GROUP 3: Questions of pedagogy and psychotechnics

a) psychotechnics of the architect;

b) working out of rational methods of teaching architectural design in contemporary architectural schools.

As a consequence of its location in the Institute the Laboratory has concentrated its attention first of all on questions that are closely involved with the life of the architecture school.  This means above all questions of psychotechnics and the architect, the explanation and evaluation of his professional capacity (Group 3).

The photographs reproduced here show a group of devices constructed by Professor Ladovskii for measuring the capacity to estimate dimensions by sight [izmerenie glazomera – mer = measure; glaz = eye].

As an example of how these devices work let us examine one of the methods of analyzing and measuring architectural capacities.

The simplest of the devices in this group is the Liglazometr [literally linear sight measure], a device for measuring the visual capacity to measure distance as a linear dimension.  This consists of a smooth flat baton, freely suspended in space (Fig. 1).  With the help of a slide which moves along this ruler, the person being investigated divides the given length.  The reverse side of the baton being like a ruler with a scale, it indicates to the researcher what error in linear dimension was in centimeters.  As a result the percentage error is [185] determined.

The Ploglazometr [literally, plane sight measure, from ploskost’, plane] is a device for measuring visual capacity in relation to planar dimensions, and the Oglasometr [from ob”em, volume] is a device for measuring visual capacity in relation to volumetric quantities.  These give the possibility to determine the degree of error of the eye in division or comparison of planar and volumetric quantities, as embodied in diverse forms like a square, a circle, a sphere, or a cone.

In the Ploglazometr (Fig. 2), the moving element is a piece of glass with lines cut on it.  In moving the glass around, these lines cut off a certain portion of a planar figure located under the glass.  The scales are then folded back to indicate the degree of precision [in estimating how much was cut off].

The moving element of the Oglazometr (Fig. 3) is the surface of water filling this or that given volume.  The water is poured from a graded cylindrical vessel which thus forms a kind of scale, measuring cubic centimeters, and giving the possibility to determine the degree of precision in this case.  The pouring and control is conducted by means of a system of rubber hoses and taps.

The last device in this group is the Uglazometr [from ugol, corner or angle], in figs. 4-5, which measures the accuracy of the eye in its capacity to estimate angles, and also the verticality and horizontality of lines.

The main parts of the device are a circle which rotates in the vertical plan on which is marked a straight line, and a hanging arrow line and a plumb line on the back side.  Rotation of the circle makes it possible to set up a line at any chosen inclination, with the hanging arrow and the reverse side of the circle, which has a scale with graded divisions, give the possibility to determine the degree of error.

The work with the devices which I have described, measuring the visual capacities, gives an example of the sort of measurements of spatial quantities that can be made, these being far from the only examples.  I will mention also a means of measuring and making a quantitative comparison of positive and negative solutions, applied by the Laboratory for measuring the feeling for spatial imagination and the feeling for relationships.

In investigating any of these more comple capacities, they need to be broken down in advance into a series of simpler component elements, that are susceptible to quantitative measurement.  In this direction we are conducting investigations into the feelings for architectural composition.

The first step is to set up a method for measuring the capacity for spatial combinations, as one of the basic elements of architectural composition.  In this process the psychotechnical method is preceded by application of special formulae operating on the basis of the theory of unions [teoria soedinenii].

Without dwelling on the details of this latter work, which would require the space of another article, I will just mention one of the questions which arise in connection with it, namely the possibility for establishing the links between the selection of architectural elements or compositions, and public emotional concerns.

Everything that I have mentioned in the line of methods and means of breaking down and measuring the professional capacities of the architect has been discovered by the laboratory, and is being developed further in its present practical application towards creating systems of psychotechnical selection of students entering the architecture faculty of VKhUTEIN.

But apart from this, they also serve to establish systems for the rational development of the architect’s professional capacities, by working out training exercises for those areas in which he is backward.

Finally, by studying the psychotechnics of the architect, by measuring his capacity, we also find ourselves unwittingly moving along the path to also assessing actual designs from the point of view of their architectural qualities.

Thus from questions of evaluating architectural capacities we move on to assessment of architectural projects and actual buildings, to questions of perception and questions of public psychology, i.e. to working out questions in the first and second groups of our program.

In this direction very little has so far been done, and the work has a somewhat disparate character.  However we must also note a series of successes on this path.  By means of a survey and special questionnaire, i.e. by the psychoanalytic method, a study is being conducted of the architectural viewer, or more precisely, of the architectural consumer, in a series of different levels of soviet society, e.g. workers, stuents in workers’ preparatory faculties [rabfaky] of higher education, ordinary students in HE, local administrators, etc.

The Laboratory is also conducting experimental verification of the spatial disciplines that are taught in the Basic Course of the Architecture Faculty.

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~ by Ross Wolfe on June 23, 2011.

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