Intelligence in Environments

Our world is a physicalization of the intelligence of people. How do our environments affect behavior and interaction?

The combination of technologies, human interaction and how we interact with a space and others inside influence what an environment looks like. There is a symbiotic relationship between environments affecting people and people affecting environments. Design always exists in a larger context. This scale can help frame at what level context creates intuitive behaviors. What are the seams of these scales? What affects us that is seemingly hidden?

This framing allowed me to develop an interest for communal spaces. Why do people congregate in specific spaces? What are the traces of interaction, and how does that represent how we value a space?

Communal and Private Kitchens

Key Questions:

  • How do people interact with public v. private spaces?

I decided to compare different kitchens because of their emotional attachment and particularity of use.

Layers of the Kitchen

Public v. Private Space

Private Home Kitchen

The counter top on the left has no specifications or objects that help to organize or categorize the space. The desk on the left may appear messy, but many of the plates and cups live on drying racks instead of just on the counter. The objects conform to the shapes given by the drying rack, such as the horizontal lines.

Different Closet Spaces

Objects with similar forms are stacked vertically, where the forms minimize the space in between. Like-objects and food items are grouped together.

Order still emerges in area that have no definite form or organization.


  • Specific areas allow for messiness or chaos

“I don’t like to be the one messy roommate”

“I feel better when my kitchen is clean”


Communal Home Kitchen

There seems to be a balancing act between undefined ‘dirty spaces’ and distribution/ spacing and pacing of objects. The negative space seems to inform where people feel comfortable placing objects.

Countertop Images

There is an attempt to group similar objects together, such as the sink and the water pitcher. There seems to be an intention to placing certain objects in specific areas, even if that does not make sense. Because the locations are so peculiar this may cause people to not move them back to their original location. One example of this is the aluminum foil, the microwave oven, and the oil.

Details of the Kitchen

Objects inside this drawer to not conform to the labels assigned. Even the knife is not in its distinct wooden knife holder.

The grouping of ‘messiness’


  • Objects tend to be grouped by ecology, not by the labels around the kitchen

“People are lazy and just leave dishes in the sink.”

“It feels like the space is never really clean”

“We used a fine system in the past, but people would still not clean up and take the fine.”


Communal Work Kitchen

CMU Grad Studio Kitchen
Every object is near where it’s used.

There is minimal chaos in this communal work kitchen.

Specific Object Ecologies emerge and still have order and grouping.
Closed organizational spaces seem to have the most chaos. This may be because they are still constrained. The mess can be hidden.
Specific Utility for these objects / services

The objects that have more of a job seem to have more respect and care.

More open spaces have moments of randomness, but remain mainly open and clean, as they present themselves.

Small notes and modifications to the space, including a cleaning schedule. Reminders instead of labels.


  • Most objects felt like they belonged in their space

“Conversations really help clarify common standards, especially because the studio has many international students.”

“People tend to leave their dirty dishes at their desk out of respect for the kitchen”

“People seem to get confused with composting.”

“The white counter and materiality help make it easy to clean and want to clean the surfaces.”


Key Insights:

  • The importance of materiality


Class Notes:

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