Numbers and Cognition

Numbers and Cognition in the Urban Environment

Dates: 21-25 August 2017

Volume: 40 hours, 3 ECTS

Location: Department of Architecture at the Estonian Academy of Arts, Pikk tn 20, Tallinn

Number of participants: max 25

Cost: FREE

Registration deadline: Extended to the 18th of June

When we look at the public space in more broadly, taking in people, movements (reasons, frequency), climate and noise, a dynamic environment unfolds before us. Picking key parameters (properties) from this environment has long received attention from urbanism scholars: William H. Whyte, who attempted to trace patterns of use of public space, or Kevin Lynch, who tried to find the mental model people use to understand a city. The late 20th century brought a rise in computing power, which has resulted in change in the accuracy and use of many calculations. In the past, it was not conceivable to calculate trajectories from one building to another manually, but it is now possible. Alongside this trend, a completely new field has arisen: various kinds of simulations. Simulations make it possible to model traffic, pedestrians or both at the same time. Gathering data has become more intensive with a focus moving from gathering qualitative data to collecting quantitative data.

The objective of the Numbers and Cognition in the Urban Environment course is to get closer to a representation of the city that stems from the individual, and developing a deeper understanding of what a given indicator means in an urban analysis. The course is structured on architecture, numbers and sensibility with the focus mainly on public space. Modern architecture is interwoven with numbers, which play an important role in the source material, tools and results. Properties that are quantified in architecture include dimensions of rooms, load-bearing capacity of walls, amount of natural light and user frequency – and this must all be synthesized and combined in the project. It can confidently be asserted that most architects use a computer in their professional work, and keying in numbers is an important method in their practice.

Participants will become well-versed in methods and means for quantitatively and qualitatively documenting the street-level space, which can in turn later be used for analysis of other places. The participant will also receive an overview of software used in the framework of the workshop. At the end of the summer academy course, all of the data gathered will be made public to allow third parties to use them in their projects.

Admission is open to students studying architecture or urban design and whose focus is the street-level space. In addition, this course welcomes those studying to become traffic engineers, geographers, statisticians, psychologists or computer scientists. Students need to bring their own laptop, but a license for McNeel Rhino 3D software will be provided to each participant. 

The course will be taught by Raul Kalvo and Mikk Meelak. Marti Kaljuve will provide technical support.


Monday, 21st of August

  • Introduction to methods, software tutorial
  • In the afternoon, the first reference

Tuesday, 22nd of August

  • Morning observation
  • Afternoon data interpretation and thematic lecture

Wednesday, 23rd of August

  • Morning observation
  • Afternoon data interpretation and thematic lecture

Thursday, 24th of August

  • Comparing the data collected before and during the course

Friday, 25th of August

  • Visiting the regions where data was gathered before the start of the course
  • Public presentation of the seminar


Photo credit: Tõnu Tunnel.