The architectural aspect of designing space in virtual environments
This thesis deals with the architectural aspect of virtual environment design. It aims at proposing a framework which could inform the design of three-dimensional content for defining space in virtual environments, in order to aid navigation and wayfinding. The use of such a framework in the design of certain virtual environments is considered necessary for imposing a certain form and structure to our spatial experience in there. Firstly, this thesis looks into literature from the fields of architectural and urban design theory, philosophy, environmental cognition, perceptual psychology and geography for the purpose of identifying a taxonomy of spatial elements and their structure in the real world, on the basis of the way that humans think about and remember real environments. Consequently, the taxonomy, proposed for space in the real world is adapted to the intrinsic characteristics of space in virtual environments, on the basis of human factors aspects of virtual reality technology. As a result, the thesis proposes a hypothetical framework consisting of a taxonomy of spatial and space-establishing elements that a virtual environment may comprise and of the possible structure of these elements. Following this framework, several pilot virtual environments are designed, for the purpose of identifying key design issues for evaluation. As it was impossible to evaluate the whole framework, six specific design issues, which have important implications for the design of space in virtual environments, are investigated by experimental methods of research. Apart from providing answers to these specific design issues, the experimental phase leads to a better understanding of the nature of space in virtual environments and to several hypotheses for future empirical research.