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Examples of research on the divergence between the aesthetic judgments of architects and planners, and those of most users:

Gifford, R., Hine, D. W., Muller-Clemm, W., & Shaw, K. T. (2002). Why architects and laypersons judge buildings differently: Cognitive properties and physical bases. Journal of Architectural and Planning Research, 131-148.


Architects and laypersons experience buildings quite differently; this study investigated the physical and cognitive underpinnings of these differences. Laypersons and practicing architects assessed the global aesthetic quality and six key cognitive properties (complexity, clarity, friendliness, originality, meaningfulness, and ruggedness) of 42 large contemporary buildings, and 59 physical features of each building were independently scored. Lens model analyses revealed how these physical features are interpreted differently by the two groups, which apparently leads them to experience different cognitive properties, which in turn leads to different aesthetic conclusions. 

Brown, G., & Gifford, R. (2001). Architects predict lay evaluations of large contemporary buildings: whose conceptual properties?. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 21(1), 93-99.



Evidence suggests that architects as a group cannot predict the public's aesthetic evaluations of architecture. In this study, practicing architects predicted laypersons' responses to large contemporary building, and again these predictions were poorly correlated with ratings by laypersons, although some architects' predictions were better than others, and architects were able to predict accurately that lay ratings in general would be more favourable than their own. To understand why most architects are unable to predict reactions to particular buildings, the architects' predictions were analysed in relation to their own and lay ratings of the buildings' conceptual properties. The results suggest that architects are unable to exchange their own criteria for conceptual properties for those of laypersons when they predict public evaluations, which leads to self-anchored, inaccurate predictions. This was supported by showing that the bestpredicting architects related their evaluations to buildings' conceptual properties in a manner similar to that of the laypersons. Implications for design are suggested.


Ghomeshi, M., Nikpour, M., & Jusan, M. M. (2012). Evaluation of Conceptual Properties by Layperson in Residential Façade Designs. Arts and Design Studies, 3, 13-17.




When it comes to aesthetic evaluation of a design, architects and non-architects differ from each other. This study demonstrates how aesthetic evaluation of buildings could be predicted. These predictions are important for architects as they can be used to find the users preferences and expectations of the design. Preference is considered to involve conceptual evaluation about whether the design is liked or disliked. In environmental preference, this type of conceptual evaluation might be conscious or unconscious. The aim of this study is to identify the essential conceptual properties that are related to aesthetic evaluation of façade designs using qualitative methodology. As a result it can be concluded that not all the conceptual properties are related to aesthetic evaluation of the design. Some conceptual properties are not important from the eye of non-architects and some are highly important. Findings of this research could help architects to understand the perception of non-architects.


Hubbard, P. (1984). Diverging evaluations of the built environment: Planners versus the public.  In The urban experience: A people–environment perspective, 125-133.

Hubbard, P. (1996). Conflicting interpretations of architecture: an empirical investigation. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 16(2), 75-92.




...this study reports on one segment of a larger empirical study investigating differences in architectural interpretation between planners, planning students and public respondents. These interpretations were examined using multiple sorting techniques, with respondents asked to sort 15 examples of contemporary architecture according to their own criteria. INDSCAL analysis of this data facilitated the recognition of a shared conceptualization of these architectural stimuli, but also demonstrated a number of important inter-group and inter-individual differences in architectural interpretation, which were evident as variations from this common conceptualization. The paper concludes by discussing the implications of this study for research in environmental psychology, particularly stressing the need to consider notions of power and ideology.


Trope, Y., Liberman, N., & Wakslak, C. (2007). “Construal levels and psychological distance: Effects on representation, prediction, evaluation, and behavior.” Journal of Consumer Psychology 17(2), 83

Xu, L., Zhang, Y., Li, F., & Yin, J. (2022). Perceptual difference of urban public spaces between design professionals and ‘laypersons’: Evidence, health implications and ready-made urban design templates. Indoor and Built Environment, 1420326X221116318.

Ghomeshi, M., & Jusan, M. M. (2013). Investigating different aesthetic preferences between architects and non-architects in residential façade designs. Indoor and Built Environment, 22(6), 952-964.

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