Prof. Christoph Hölscher

Prof. Christoph Hölscher

Chair of Cognitive Science at ETH Zurich

Christoph Hölscher is Full Professor of Cognitive Science in the D-GESS at ETH Zürich since 2013, with an emphasis on Applied Cognitive Science. Since 2016 Christoph is a Principal Investigator at the Singapore ETH Center (SEC) Future Cities Laboratory, heading a research group on ‘Cognition, Perception and Behaviour in Urban Environments’. He holds a PhD in Psychology from University of Freiburg, served as honorary senior research fellow at UCL, Bartlett School of Architecture, and is a visiting Professor at Northumbria University Newcastle.

Christoph has several years of industry experience in Human-Computer Interaction and usability consulting. The core mission of his research groups in Zurich and Singapore is to unravel the complex interaction of humans and their physical, technical and social environment with an emphasis on cognitive processes and task-oriented behaviour.


Spatial cognition and architecture – from evidence to design

Advances in digital media and computation have spurred renewed interest in modeling, anticipating and predicting the human experience of architectural spaces. But how does one capture the ‘soft’ factors of human behavior and human appreciation of a building design? How can psychological parameters be included as part of evidence-based design? I will provide on overview of how our spatial cognition research group tackles this with an emphasis on human movement pattern in complex, publically accessible environments. We combine real world behavior observation with Virtual Reality simulation of building design options. This goes beyond traditional post-occupancy evaluation by providing pre-occupancy assessment opportunities. To capture the richness of human perception and environmental appreciation we engage volunteer participants in a series of interaction tasks in a real or virtual setting, measuring their reactions with behavior- and path-tracing, eye-tracking and physiological measures of stress and arousal. This helps us identify points of misfit between the architect’s intentions and the present – or future – patrons’ reaction to the building design. Digital tools provide the basis for immersive virtual reality experiments to compare design alternatives, as well as for agent-based simulations of patron behavior, both for individual wayfinding analysis and development of cognitively enriched crowd movement simulations.