‘Comfortable’ or ‘Agitated’? A Canadian Psychologist Tests The East Village

On a rainy Saturday afternoon at the BMW Guggenheim Lab, about 12 people volunteered for “Testing, Testing!”, a tour created to measure the psychological effects of urban design. Dr. Colin Ellard, a psychologist who directs the Research Laboratory for Immersive Virtual Environments in Waterloo, Canada, attached sensors to the wrists of about half of the group and gave them BlackBerry devices preloaded with a program designed to record their feelings. Others received a paper survey with pictures depicting a spectrum of moods from “Comfortable” to “Agitated.” The survey also had spaces for volunteers’ ideas about alternative uses for the six spaces visited, which included a restaurant, an apartment building, and an intersection.

Upon returning to the Lab to discuss their feelings, some were surprised at their strong reactions to brick walls or open spaces. Dr. Ellard asked us not to go into further detail, since he will conduct another tour on Oct. 13 at 2 p.m. before revealing his findings on Oct. 15. But he did tell us more about his experiment as we accompanied him with cameras on Saturday.