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In many countries of the world the problem of ecology has merged as a real matter of economic
and social importance. At present, this matter attracts close attention of scientific, public
and parliamentary circles. However, when speaking about ecological problems it usually relates
only to sufficiency of polluted air and water, extremely high noise and radiation level but
the constant visual environment and its condition are never mentioned as an ecological factor
which is not of the least importance. Moreover, it is a common thing to consider that all
we need is fresh air, clear water and silent life and we care nothing about what we look
at. Being governed by such an attitude, one often handles urban environment design, new l
abor vacancies creation, industrial and living areas interior development. And meanwhile,
as it was discovered by the science, the constant visual environment full of visual elements
exerts an immense influence upon the human being especially affecting its organ of sight,
i.e. it acts the same way other ecological factors of inhabited environment do. This new
scientific trend developing visual perception of environment was named videoecology by
us [V.A.Filin, 1989]. This is a high-priority scientific trend being of great interest
for experts in ecology, psychology, physiology, medicine, architecture and art.
The problem of videoecology has particularly aggravated in recent 50 years due to the
total urbanization which isolated the human being from its natural visual environment.
This isolation was made possible mostly due to the use of new materials in urban development.
As a result we have a lot of cities with drastically changed visual environment, i.e.
prevailing dark-gray color, straight lines and right angles, urban buildings being
mostly static with a great number of vast surfaces. Homogeneous and "aggressive" zones
are especially disturbing for a man. In case of homogeneity these are bare walls made of
concrete and glass, solid fences, subway crossing and asphalted surfaces, whereas in
case of "aggression" we are facing standards elements predominance, e.g. rows of windows
on the flat walls of many-storeyed buildings.
Visual environment has been transformed for city population due to the nature of urban
labor. People work in rooms, i.e. in closed space - at plant and factory workshops, at
schools and colleges. The interior is full of new materials of artificial nature, such
as polished furniture, plastics, linoleum, tiles, films, glass, corrugated aluminum, net
screens, grills and bars, design structures, etc. Visual environment in private apartments
is made up with same kind of materials.
Television rushed into our life to aggravate the problem of video-ecology. One watches TV
up to 4 hours a day, which reasonably makes one call a television set a "vision-chewing
gum". Video level of TV broadcasting hardly meets standards of vision. Apart from frame
and line frequency and unnatural range of colors, the same straight lines, right angles
and displayed bars attack us from the screen. Dangerous visual effects are also
produced by massive use of computers in everyday life - in fact, every tenth person
operates PC during working hours.
New lighting technologies, i.e. fluorescent lamps, flash tubes, lasers should be considered
as other visual environment transforming factors. Illumination devices of theaters and
concert halls are more expensive and sophisticated compared with sound engineering.
Lighting is controlled by a complex of PCs and advanced software. The similar lighting
technologies are everywhere in urban areas full of advertising boards with running
text and fast frame shifting.
Massive implementation of various transport facilities into man's life has enormously
transformed the modern visual environment of people. A car driver gets extra visual stress
while watching objects in movement, highway that runs ahead, trees, poles and buildings
appearing for a moment, cars rushing in the opposite direction, traffic lights. Same view
is experienced by a passenger traveling by bus, trolley-bus, train, ship or aircraft.
People have become more dynamic thus catching more moving objects in their field of vision.
Objects in movement are often faced by a man dealing with manufacture process, e.g. assembly
lines, escalators, running wheels, packing, grinding, weaving and printing machines, etc.
Besides, during a working day a man is being surrounded by monotonous things, such as
newspapers, books, fabrics of the same color, milk and eggs packs, bottles, machinery
parts and components, electronic chips, decorative tiles, etc.
Dwelling upon importance of the problem of videoecology, we should mention man's progressing
exploration of extraordinary areas, such as the North Polar region, the Arctic and the
Antarctic as well as sea depths and underground spaces. Population of the Norilsk city,
for instance, always remain within unusual visual environment with a short daylight
period in winter and a long one in summer. Not always favorable visual environment
exists in the newly settled areas, e.g. the Navoi city in arid deserts, oil fields in
the Caspian Sea, etc.
The problem of videoecology is still urging due to the lack of scientifically invented
basic laws on visual environment formation and requirements as per permissible
allowances, particularly for reasonable size limits of homogeneous and aggressive
zones in urban architecture. Visual environment swift transformation contradicts
the capabilities of vision. The human being still remains the same with its amount
of needs and so do the basics of vision methods while the visual environment in
populated areas is getting worse.
According to the World Health Organization, urbanization process leads to steady rise of
mental diseases. Unnatural visual environment totally surrounds us and together with other
factors also adds to the problems mentioned, and as we see, it really does. The spontaneous
scientific and technical progress nowadays has demonstrated its contradictions in a mighty
and inevitable way. Thus, if human survival process goes in a wrong way, it is immediately
followed by negative consequences at the global level.
In 1992 the World Ecology Conference was held in Rio de Janeiro. The Rio forum of 179
delegated nations stated the most important aspects of the world's mankind harmonious
development. The Rio summit resulted in adopting the following five documents: the
declaration on environment and development; the 21st century's agenda - steady development
program from social ecological and economic points of view; the declaration on principles
of woods preservation; the United Nations convention on climate transformation and on
The Rio forum demonstrated the mankind's concept of the global ecological problems which
are a threat to all living on the Earth. But in spite of the human factor considered to be
important by the forum, no one touched upon the problem of visual environment which
concerns practically everyone. This might lead to fatal results as it is well known that
every ecological correction needs enormous expenditures.
There are a lot of problems accumulated in the field of videoecol-ogy, not a bit fewer
than in other fields of ecology, and many of them demand for urgent solution. While water
and air condition as well as radiation level are monitored and studied by quite a number
of research institutes and big departments, the problem of videoecology is just a few
people's concern so far. That is why this problem is unknown for both city folk and
experts in architecture, design, art, modeling, medicine. This book, as it seems to
us, will be of use for specialists and every interested reader. Its purpose is to
provide architects, artists and designers with information for a motivated
of the problems of videoecology in the course of designing buildings, installations,
machinery, instruments, consumer goods and clothes.
Visual environment is one of the principal components of life-support of a human being.
Up to the moment a human being stayed in natural environment for a greater part of his
time, there were practically no problems in the field of videoecology. Moreover, using
the words of poet A. Beliy, "around the soul is drinking a diamond current from the eyes".
Urbanization processes completely ruled out the possibility to enjoy surrounding
environment, and instead of "diamond current around" a human being has got homogeneous
and aggressive environment which, being unnatural one, not only fails to afford aesthetic
delight but brings forth a great number of social problems. Videoecology which studies
interaction of a human being with surrounding environment constitutes an actual problem
among the problems of human ecology.
From our point of view, creation of unnatural visual environment was caused by the
following reasons: revolutionary approach in solving urban development issues, erroneous
aesthetic positions of specialists whose viewpoints were based on industrial methods and
necessity of fighting against extravagances, rapid growth of cities when there was a
practical lack of creative potential from the part of architects, rapid growth of
construction industry with its automated production lines of similar construction
materials, separation of a human being from the nature, and finally, a lag of videoecology
as a science. We would like to speak in detail about the latter one. That is associated
with the fact that if architects had been guided by the laws of visual perception in
their creative work, we may say for sure that such serious blunders in forming urban
visual environment could have been avoided.
We can hear objections that there have been reproaches against modern architecture before
as well. Yes, it is true. However, in general these reproaches were subjective: "faceless
boxes", "monstrous geometry", "technocracy", "environment is injured with inexplicable and
alien forms" [F.C.Volkmann, 1962; Y.Vuec, 1990], etc. With little exception [E.L.Belyaeva, 1977], there were practically no attempts
to analyze visual environment, where townsmen found themselves, in its integrative form.
On the other hand, those researchers who touched the mechanism of visual perception
of modern architecture had grounds based on dated conceptions. They did not take into
account the fact that the eye is working in the active mode, it is searching for
what it can "seize" in urban environment, what "to catch", what "to go at". Speaking
scientific language, the eye is scanning surrounding environment. Such activity of
the eye is achieved owing to the nature of its rapid movements - saccades. Saccades
are performed constantly and involuntarily, both with open and closed eyes, when we
are awake, and when we sleep [V.A.Filin, 1977, 1990, 1992]. The total number of saccades under
different conditions have comparable values. On the basis of these data we have
laid down a concept about saccadic automation [V.A.Filin, 1977]. It means that in most cases
a saccade is primary. And that fact that the eye will see after the saccade is
secondary. In this case, after saccade the eye must "catch" something. As soon
as that happens, the eye calms down, and the amplitude of its saccades is
decreased up to minimum values, the number of saccades, in this case, remains
the same. In 2-3 seconds the eye scans surrounding environment another time
by several saccades and again stops on a detail minimizing saccadic amplitude.
There are individual cases when a saccade is secondary, for instance, as a response to light
flash. In order to fix a look on an object which appears in the vision field, saccadic center
selects a saccade of corresponding amplitude and orientation, that is their modulation is
performed, and the interval is given in a previous form.
The concept on saccadic automation is a new idea on visual perception of surrounding
environment. That is what allowed us to study the problem of videoecology. From the
position of new experience we have analyzed urban visual environment: we have found fields
not complying with saccadic automation and other vision mechanisms.
Thus, we may say that videoecology is based not only on subjective statements but on
regularities of visual perception. That is the principal difference of our analysis of modern
architecture from previous reproaches to its address.
Homogeneous and aggressive fields bring a lot of trouble s to townsmen. A homogeneous field
is a surface with visible elements, or their number is minimum. Blind fences, plain doors,
large size panels, one-piece glass, underground passages, asphalt coat and roofs of houses
are examples of homogeneous fields in urban environment. In apartments homogeneous fields
begin from the entrance door, continue with polished furniture sections and cabinets, and
finish with plain plastic items in the kitchen.
Aggressive visible field is a field with concentration of a great number of similar elements.
Such environment is created by multistory buildings with a great number of windows on the wall,
attached vertical rustics, panels of houses coated with glass "toffees", walls coated with
tiles, brickwork with concealed joint, doors padded with "lining" as well as various bars,
meshes, perforated boards, corrugated aluminum, asbestos-cement board, etc. Under urban
conditions one aggressive field is often applied over the another one, for instance,
a house wall with attached rustics behind a metallic bar.
Fundamental vision mechanisms such as saccadic automation, binocular apparatus,
conversion, on- and off- systems and vision centers cannot operate in aggressive and
homogeneous environment to the full extent. In particular, in homogeneous environment
impaired is the feedback between sensor and motor systems since after successive saccade
illumination difference on eye photoreceptors is insufficient. Accordingly, after the
saccade the brain receives a minimum pulse insufficient for reliable feedback actuation.
In other words, an action has taken place - saccade, but there is no confirmation to this
action. As a result vision centers and the nerve system as a whole are confused. That
in turn causes a perception of discomfort. Durable stay of a human being in such
environment leads to disturbance of saccadic automation.
Decor of buildings does not mean "architectural extravagances" which our literature has
written a lot about. These are essential functional elements comprising the basis of visual
environment. Without them the eyes cannot operate to the full extent. As in the air there
must be a sufficient quantity of oxygen, in visible environment there must be a sufficient
number of elements. Abundance of same elements in visible environment - windows on the wall
of a big house, tiles or rods - we may say, completely "switches off" such a powerful sensor
channel as a vision analyzer since the eye simply "does not know" what particular element
it is fixing. In natural environment no such things can happen. In the nature, if the
eye looks at something, it "knows" that. The vision apparatus, in this case, correctly
evaluates reality, and easily and rapidly orients in it accordingly.
In all big cities the number of mental diseases has recently increased. Specialists called
this disease "a syndrome of a big city" which often shows itself in human aggressiveness.
Among many factors unnatural visible environment greatly contributes, in our opinion, to
the growth of mental diseases. The statement made by Avicenna: "All that the nature managed
to accumulate invisibly enters the nature of the body". If we intend to further build cities
as we do it nowadays, lunatic asylums in cities should be built dozen times as quicker.
The problem of videoecology does not relate only to medical aspects. The point is that
aggressive environment makes a human being perform aggressive actions. As a rule, in new
communities with unnatural visual environment the number of breaches of law is more as
compared with a central part of a city. This means that not only lunatic asylums should
be built dozen of times as quicker, but it is also necessary to increase the staff of
militia. It is quite obvious that errors committed in evaluation of human ecology
become global every time.
Architecture is a durable, expensive and raw material intensive layer of culture where
giant physical and intellectual efforts of the civilized society are materialized. These
efforts should not be made in vain. Above all, architectural objects should please the eye.
They should positively affect, in emotional and ethic respect, a human being who stays
under their influence all life long, and of course, they should not damage health of townsmen.
Architecture constantly affects a human being and mainly at the back of its mind. Right was
Victor Pelevin when he was writing: " Things you see every day for many years gradually
pass into a monument to your own... To see actually means to put your soul on a standard
copy on the retina of a standard human eye" ("Anthology of childhood").
If an adjoining aggressive house is "put" on a human soul, "a monument to your own"
is converted into a multocular monster.
According to Aristotle, a city should provide security for people and make them happy.
Unfortunately, this rule was broken in all times, and in recent 50 years it has been
forgotten at all. As a result, a human being has become a victim of his own creative
work surrounding himself by aggressive visual environment.
A city is living organism and, as any other organism, is constantly renovated. The principle
of city formation form the position of comfort visual environment could become that "idea
of a city" which would unite all its inhabitants. Everything that is designed for a human
being should meet at least physiological needs of his vision. Unless and until a designer
is oriented towards a final result of his work, his designs will be devised with evident
ignorance to saccadic automation which provides for constant scanning of surrounding
"To embrace the space, cognize how to see it (accentuated by us) - that is the key to
correct comprehension of atask" (Bruno Dzevi). In old times many architects managed
this. It was often achieved not only by embracing the space but also by variety of forms,
lines, multistory level, diversity of stories in buildings, small sizes of surfaces and
different decorative elements. In a word, everything was done for sufficient saturation
of an object with visible elements in order "to oblige" saccadic automation.
On the other
hand, such saturation was not to the detriment of aesthetic merits since diversity of
details is an objective basis for the beauty of an object. It is quite obvious that it
is impossible to create a beautiful object and , certainly, very difficult to create
comfort visual environment of a city only with right angles and straight lines which
the eye "does not like" and which prevail in modern architecture. It would rather be
a cacophony characterized by the worst combination of sensor stimuli.
As it was stated in the enactment of the CPSU CC issued in November 1955 ("On elimination
of extravagances in designing and construction"), decorative details in architecture are not
extravagances. They are necessary elements for formation of visual environment. It is not
by accident architects have used them for many centuries. They have functional meaning,
they are needed for manifestation of saccadic automation as the air for breath automation.
He who was the first to say about "architectural extravagances" hurt us all; suffered was
not only aesthetic part but fundamental vision mechanisms and lives of townsmen were also
threatened. A human was living in natural visible environment for millions years. 90 per
cent of his history he spent in harmony with the nature. Now in XX century he found himself
in quite unusual environment - in stone and asphalt jungles.
Until now problems of theoretical investigations have borne a stamp of traditional
approach to architecture as three-dimensional designing. Ignored are general issues
of urban development including issues of visual environment. The lack of valuable theory
enables to get effective and justified practical recommendations. Many architects are aware
of this reason. Here what A. Gutnov writes in this regard: "It is necessary to direct all
efforts in order to develop a new type architectural theory based on the knowledge of
general regularities of artificial environment created by a human being, of mechanisms
of its formation and development".
It is, probably, worth to remind what the source is to create artificial environment
and urban environment in particular. Such components as air, water, temperature, noise
and radiation level, homogeneous fields are known to be a basis of human environment.
However, all these components, though very important, are indirectly related to the theory
of architecture since architecture, as it may be directly comprehended, means an external
appearance of buildings. This an object we look at with our eyes, or, speaking by
architect Melnikov's words "architecture is a game for eyes". Thus, "development of
new type architectural theory" should be carried out taking into account requirements
of visible environment. And it should base on general regularities of visual perception
(fig. 159, 160).
We are glad to remind that architect N. Ladovskiy related this issue with understanding
yet in 20-s. "Architect, - he wrote - should, though just a little, be familiar with
perception laws and means of influence in order to use in his work everything that modern
science can give. Among sciences contributing to architecture a serious place should be
taken by rather young science "psycotechnics" (accentuated by us). We won't argue with
terminology of those years, the main thing is the backbone which in many ways coincides
with our point of view since both videoecology and psycotechnics are based on the laws of
visual perception. It is fair to say that nowadays we know more about these laws than in
20-s. In particular, we know that saccadic automation is the basis of visual
perception [N.Ladovskiy, 1926]. However, the approach of N. Ladovskiy was correct.
And if it was further developed, many errors in formation of urban environment could
have been avoided.
In places where laws of visual perception were followed to the full extent, architecture
has no reproaches. Let us take, for instance, Novodevichiy monastery on the territory
of which a man feels comfortable though as per the state of air, water as well noise
and radiation level this territory does not differ from other Moscow areas. Replace
mentally monastery temples with modern "box-houses" and you will feel horror of a modern
city and understand the main problem of architecture based on satisfying physiological needs
of visual perceptions and aesthetic norms. And we learn to follow these requirements, we
will decide many problems of the architectural theory. In the most common form the theory
of architecture goes easily with the triad of Vitruvius: reliable, comfortable, lovely.
We can say with confidence that we have learned to make everything reliable. In many
cases engineering issues of urban development are solved successfully. We can build
houses with amenities: elevator, gas, cold and hot running water, bathroom, lavatory,
chute have become a norm of our life. But, unfortunately, we have unlearned to make
lovely. Everywhere we violate requirements on visual environment. In fact, in this
regard the era of spontaneity has recently come. Abundance of aggressive and homogeneous
visual environment makes a modern city practically unfit for human habitation. Modern
urban development is often given the credit of elaboration of sanitary and hygienic
aspects and insolation standards. We can say that transport and engineering mains
are also built rather well. We are sure that soon we will learn to take into
account geopathogen areas as well. Unfortunately, we are not sure that we will learn
to solve as quickly the problems of videoecology. That is connected with the fact
that textbooks, articles, sanitary norms and regulations have created "blinders"
which limit professional conscience of architects. "It is difficult to puzzle out
in a boodle of words and symbols, - writes Yacub Vuec, - which today mean something
new than when they were declared for the first time, it needs a lot of time" [Y.Vuec, 1990].
On the other hand, it is difficult to dispute the advance of the construction industry
which dictated its approaches in urban development. That is why elaboration of
issues of videoecology is quite relevant. Videoecology may be a theoretical basis
capable of solving many key issues in the development of the architectural science.
As any theoretical development, this is a painstaking job but that is this job which
seems far form today needs is the only reliable way to effective practical
What shall we do in this situation? First of all, specialists on ecology, architects,
artists, doctors, physiologists, psychologists as well as law-making and executive public
bodies should be aware of the problem of videoecology. Videoecology should become a phenomenon
of mass conscience. If we want that to happen, videoecology should occupy a corresponding
place in the educational process. Videoecology as a subject should be taught in architectural
institutes, artistic colleges, schools.
Only if we make definite efforts, we can make a progress in improving visual environment.
First of all, it is necessary to analyze and make maps of "pollution" of visual environment
of cities. Such maps can give an idea about the nature of the disaster and will permit to
develop measures in order to change the situation to the best. Certainly, in this case, it
is necessary to preserve all valuable things we have - everything that pleases the eye.
To make maps it is necessary to work out a method and devices on evaluation of visual
A program on population displacement should be made out on the state level. With our vast
territories it is much easier to solve this problem as compared with other peoples. Every
Russian citizen can live "inside" the nature and in full harmony with it. By no means one
should increase the number of cities and their sizes as it has been done until now.
Sometimes when reading lectures I have to hear reproaches saying that videoecology is no
business of Russia at present. There are a lot of other urgent problems. Indeed, there are:
decline of the production level, cost-in-living increase, inflation, moral and ethic problems,
discord between nations, and wars. It seems to us that Yu. Koryakin was right when he wrote
about the reasons which led to such consequences: "We found ourselves on a razor-edge
first of all because we have lost love to life. W e will be saved not only by repulsion
from death but by attraction to life".
How can preconditions to attract our fellow citizens to life be created? That is the main
question. We can a lot of food, good hospitals and good medicines, but if a man has no
"attraction to life", there cannot be a question about active longevity. And if a man does
not value his own life, he does not value all that is living around him, and he kills forests,
rivers, animals. We can go the already known way and create another committee at President's
level. For example, "Committee on attraction of Russian citizens to life". But such a
committee will hardly be capable of fulfilling such a global task. To solve it is
necessary to attract the whole intellectual potential of the country, that is - scientists,
religious personalities, personalities of culture and art, academics. Videoecology
can make a great contribution in solving this problem. We have owned a principally
new knowledge which radically changes our conception about the practice of urban development.
In our opinion, comfort visual environment may contribute to attraction to life. Cheerfulness
of inhabitants of south coasts of Greece, Italy and other favorable corners of Earth is
explained namely by comfort visible environment. Surrounding beauty is a key to solution
of many problems. It can fill the life with contents and "attract" a man to life.
Architects and other specialists responsible for urban environment should aim at
creating the beauty. F. Dostoyevskiy did not say that abundance of foodstuffs would save
the world but he said: "The beauty will save the world". This statement may be evaluated
as a large scientific discovery the implementation of which we have not started yet.
Abundance of foodstuffs can secure physiological welfare of a human being but it cannot
guarantee attraction to life, whereas the beauty has a universal influence upon a human
soul. And that is the beauty which is able to fulfill this task.
Further developing his expression which has become very popular, F. Dostoyevskiy wrote:
"If a people preserves the ideal of the beauty and the need for it, that means there is
a need of health, norm, and accordingly, that guarantees a superior development of that
people". It is quite obvious that it is impossible to awake a need for the beauty with
people surrounding it by aggressive visual environment everywhere. People should constantly
stay in comfort visual environment. Only in such a way we can develop a need for the
beauty with Russian people, thus achieving its superior development. Videoecology
may serve as a methodological basis for solving this global problem. Principles and
methods of videoecology permit not spontaneously, as it has been done until now, but
consciously to form visual environment of Russian cities.
|Fig.158. Left picture - Notre Dame Cathedral (1345). Right picture - one of the
buildings in La Defense (1955) consisting of straight lines, right angles and great
planes (Paris, France)
|Fig. 159. Left picture - Morozov's House in Vozdvigenka st. (the end of XIX -
the beginning of XX centuries). Right picture - a house in Kalugskaya sq. (1960-1970)
consisting of straight lines, right angles and great planes just as the building
in La Defense (Moscow, Russia)
Chapter 1. Automation of Saccades as the Basis of Visual Perception
1.1. Eyesight and Eye Movement
1.2. Saccadic Automation Concept
1.3. Functionality of Saccadic Automation
1.4. Nystagmus. What Does It Mean?
Chapter 2 Visual Environment as an Ecological Factor
2.1. Effect of Visible Objects on Saccadic Automation
2.2. Saccades when Observing Complicated Objects
2.3. Visual Environment of People Having Bad Vision
2.4. Miner's Visual Environment
2.5. "Sensory Hunger"
2.6. Test Data
Chapter 3. Homogeneous Visual Environment
3.1. Homogeneous Visual Environment under Urban Conditions
3.2. Small Architectural Forms
3.3. Homogeneous Visual Fields in Interiors of Living Quarters and Industrial Premises
3.4. New-bom Children "Do Not Like" to Look at Homogeneous Visual Fields
3.5. Open Urban Space - Analogue of Homogeneous Environment
3.6. Homogenization of Natural Environment
3.7. Vision in Homogeneous Fields
Chapter 4. Aggressive Visual Environment
4.1. Psycho-Physiological Characteristic of Aggressive Visual Fields
4.2. Aggressive Visual Environment under Urban Conditions
4.3. Vision in Aggressive Field
4.4. Criterion When Forming Visual Environment
Chapter 5. Videoecology - Problem of Human Being's Ecology
5.1. Modern Human being's Visual Environment
5.2. Social Consequences of Unnatural Urban Visual Environment
Chapter 6. Comfortable Visual Environment
6.1.What Comfortable Visual Environment is?
6.2.Formation of Comfort Visual Environment
6.3.Ways to Solve Problems of Videoecology