Isovist is challenging to define in an articulate way. I wish I could give you a good definition without looking it up.
When I Googled the definition of isovist, here’s what I found:
“An isovist is a set of all points visible from a given vantage point in space and in relation to an environment. The shape and size of an isovist are liable to change with position.”
So what does that mean? Let’s try to figure it out.
A Simple Explanation
In simple terms, to describe an isovist is to visualize your angle of view when you are looking at an area with a wall. Then you have a corner cut off of that wall, and you see the angle of what you can see beyond that.
A Functional Description
The best way to describe the isovist is to describe where it’s used and where it’s critical. A good example is in a bathroom. Nobody wants to be seen using the facilities by people outside. You want privacy. Let’s talk about a public bathroom. At the public bathroom, there are usually no doors, like at airports for example. You want a screen that allows you to get in, but to not be able to let the public see what’s occurring inside the bathroom. Then you have that level of privacy. That angle of view when you’re passing the public bathroom is the isovist. This is what you have to consider in the design process.
There are other places where this concept is important. Another example is at restaurants. We know that there is a kitchen. In the kitchen, they’re preparing food. They’re making a mess back there. But we do want to keep a certain amount of privacy from the experience of dining outside of the kitchen. The isovist or the view into the restaurant kitchen is important to consider.