Monday, November 15, 2010


"Ergonomics" are human centered designs. The Greek etymology of the word can be broken down into ‘ergon’, meaning work and ‘nomos’ meaning laws. Typically, this word is associated with workplace items such as chairs, desks and lamps, which are all designed to fulfill health and productivity goals. However, ergonomic design can be observed in other activities and aspects of life such as leisure and regular everyday activities. The infant changing table and certain dusting tools are products of ergonomics due to the fact that they are design to fit the human body, either the whole body or specifically the hand, and conduct their desired function in a safe and efficient manor.

The ARCO arena in Sacramento is an example of ergonomics from both an individual and public perspective. The area can accommodate 17,317 people for any one event given that every seat in the house is occupied. When analyzing the complex as a functioning public venue designed for the masses it is quite successful. The parking is available and distributed around the main building to avoid a traffic build up in any one area. There are several entrances with wide ramps to accommodate handicapped and allow for a steady even flow of patrons. There are outer hallways that lead to the inside of the concert/sports hall which then break up the seating into smaller, controlled sections that allow for people to travel from one end of the venue to the other without having to climb over seats and others attempting to enjoy the entertainment. The seating itself is divided into two levels, one jetting over the other, which utilizes vertical and horizontal space and limits the observers view from being obstructed. The ceilings in the majority of the building are fairly high so as not to create a claustrophobic environment and the sound system radiates to all areas of the venue. The visual and auditory attributes and general layout of the arena are successful and are designed to provide a space for large amounts of bodies that go to enjoy various forms of entertainment. However, the achievement of mass accommodation infringes on the ability of the product to serve the individual. The relationship between quality and quantity, individual and public and money and service to customers is an equilibrium that designers must constantly balance.

On a personal level the ergonomics of the ARCO arena fail to deliver. The seats themselves are un-cushion, hard plastic with no armrests or real dividers between each seat. They are uncomfortable and do not form to the various body types, weights and sizes that might be occupying them. The space between the rows was almost non-existent and the patron that occupied the seat in front of them could feel the breath of the person sitting in the row behind. The floors are slippery, steep and the rails provided to aid in the dangerous declination are sticky and unstable from over use. In addition, the grounds and smattering of foliage is well kept but are aesthetically unimpressive as is the majesty of the building.

It would seem that a complex that is constructed to hold cultural gatherings, facilitate the exchange of information and represent the host city in which it resides in should be a reflection of the people and institutions that constructed it. The HP Pavilion in San Jose does not have much landscaping but the structure can be seen for miles. The face of the building glows as the interior lights blast through the glass front. The ARCO, however, is unidentifiable until one is standing in the parking lot. The face is mainly comprised of concrete and the signage takes no creative liberties.

The ARCO arena’s productivity and ease of use for large amounts of people is triumphant. The outer layout is obviously contrived to ensure mobility of large amounts of people and a steady procession of patrons that is convenient, organized and free of chaos that can so easily be slipped into when hosting such large amounts of people. But the comfort and safety for the individual especially when analyzing the interior of the ARCO is a failed design.

It appears that uniformity and profit won out to quality and loyalty to the individual. The ARCO is a testament that when designers are creating for the public they need to keep in mind that ‘the public’ or ‘masses’ are made up of individuals whose needs should be the priority. As Eames points out, designers must work within the constraints of the design, the patrons of the design and the hiring institution. And good design can work within the constraints of all three while still serving its purpose in an innovative manor, however when one component over rides another and compromises it as in the case of the ARCO the design is in danger of failure. I do not think that the ARCO is a completely unsuccessful design. However, I do believe that the creative processes could have be extended further and adjustments can be made in order to accommodate more of the individual needs.

Safety: X

Comfort: X

East of use: X

Performance (productivity): Check

Aesthetics: X

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