Space Use as an input to the Design Process


  • Carolina Coelho University of Coimbra, Department of Architecture - FCTUC / Centre for Social Studies



Space Use, Participatory Design Process, Evidence-Based Design


By recognizing the reciprocity between space and use, buildings are conceived not only as stages but also as producers of human behavior, and their users are both spectators and creators of meaning by appropriating space. Hence, space use is the actual acknowledgment of the design process when encountering life.

The most common ways of incorporating space use onto the design process are translated by general information, such as: standards, theoretical models and conventions. However, each project implies a deep recognition of its context, users and needs, properly suiting the space conceived by the architect to its future appropriation.

Therefore, the study of space use is an operative tool for the design process, informing on quantitative and qualitative variables, invariables and specificities of a real life scenario. Despite having different study fields (whether of a more mathematical, phenomenological or sociological nature), disciplines in the scope of “Evidence-Based Design”, such as Post-Occupancy Evaluation, Space Syntax and Usability Studies, act as input to the design process - a feedforward technique that complements the architect’s options, embracing Schön’s (1983) “reflection in action” concept.

Through these instruments, the project will result on a more thorough one, supported by user research outputs and the feedback of a broader stakeholders’ community. This will bring closer the space thought by the architect during the design process and the space lived in by the individual afterwards.


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Author Biography

Carolina Coelho, University of Coimbra, Department of Architecture - FCTUC / Centre for Social Studies

Carolina Coelho is born in 1983, Coimbra. PhD student at University of Coimbra, Department of Architecture/Centre for Social Studies, Portugal, currently investigating Life within architecture - from design process to space use: Adaptability in school buildings today. Author of the graduate thesis: The matter of the architect: the Portuguese society and the architect, today. Recently published and presented her current results at the 2012 Nexus Conference in Milan. Email:







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