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Architects Perception

by Elder I. Sanchez


Sanchez, Elder. “Winter Scene.” 6 Mar. 2020.

Throughout time humans have sought out ways to stay safe and warm from the exterior world. From the stone age to the now existing millennium we as people have not changed, we seek comfort in not only our homes but now even in our workplaces. But what truly allows us to feel a sense of comfort in such architecturally planned locations? And how have they molded our surroundings and personalities based on a positive notation?


To begin, what truly is Sensory Architecture? To many, it might mean different things, but to me, it is the atmospheric function that humans feel through their senses coming together due to the surrounding architecture and the imprinted memories with those surroundings. Some of the most exceptionally relevant examples which explain this mythology and which most people can relate to are, the chills you feel behind your back when walking down a lonely empty road or alleyway at night which makes one feel cold and as if someone was following you due to your brain realizing that the nonexistent phantoms of the normal everyday cars and bustling people are missing, just like in horror movies before the thriller.


In terms of a positive notation, we can think of when we walk into an amusement park or state fair. For example, with the warm sun beaming down on you as you enter into the park a delicious fragrance of food and candy from the food stands hit your nose making your mouth water. As you see the big smiles on kid's faces as they admire the screams from the roller coasters with their families, you cannot help but chuckle and have a smile run across your face as you reminisce about the first day your parents brought you to your first amusement park. The sense of glee one feels in such a place as this is thanks to the atmosphere which was carefully planned. With the food courts placed accordingly by the entrance, while the glamorous roller coasters are unblocked from view as a way to interest guests to ride them. Through these meticulous designs, every human is impacted by their senses by not only the use of their eyesight but also by the sense of smell, taste, hearing, and touch. Not only that but past experiences take a big step forward in helping us realize which scenarios are good and which are great.


The reason for such actions can be seen in the book Sensory Design written by Joy Monice Malnar, and Frank Vodvarka explains when it is stated, “We suggest that humans commonly experience three kinds of sensory response: first, an immediate physical response to a stimulus; second, a response conditioned by prior knowledge of its source; and third, a response to stimulus as it has become identified in one’s memory with a particular time and place.” [1]


Therefore, by putting these words into an example. What Joy Monice Malnar and Frank Vodvarka are hinting at is that when we as people enter a fabricated scenario(like entering the amusement park) we analyze the situation by an initial reaction which in this case seeing the people enjoying themselves produced joy. Secondly, due to the joy we feel, we begin to smile and thus we begin to laugh causing the third reaction which is remembering the fond memories of how we looked when we first went to an amusement park when we were kids. Through these three repeating reactions, which we as humans experience every day, we are able to discern how to design architecture to benefit a positive sensory environment by designing places we ourselves would enjoy inhabiting.


Thanks to the pandemic of 2020, we now more than ever can firsthand experience how architecture has heightened human experience through the ways that we each have organized our houses. As Joy Monice Malnar and Frank Vodvarka said in the book, Sensory Design, “If architecture is “capable of keeping open the channels of historical continuity,” in no type are these properties more potently expressed than one’s house. Such a concept helps explain the affection for our domiciles, and the emphasis accorded aspects of the house like entries and hearths, which are often considered sacred.”[2]


Taking this passage into account of how we can use architecture to heighten human experiences we can research not only the homes of strangers and how they are influenced by how they live but also, by how our homes influence us personally. For example, if you live in a cold environment your mood might be somewhat depressing. Nevertheless, you could live in a house which has bigger windows/openings facing the sun thus when you are at home you can snuggle up under the rays of the sun, in front of an open fire, and feel blessed. Yet without the diligently designed and placed openings such comfort and mood would not have been possible. Even when placing vegetation inside a structure in an urban environment can allow us to feel more relaxed and at ease in our environment due to the reason that we as humans see nature as a relaxing factor which in some cases reminds us of an enjoyable moment we lived through.


As Juhani Pallasmaa stated in the book The Eyes of the Skin: Architecture and the Senses, “Architecture does not make us inhabit worlds of mere fabrication and fantasy; it articulates the experience of our being-in-the-world and strengthens our sense of reality and self.”[3]


In conclusion, Sensory architecture spaces can be seen as influential dialogues to its inhabitants by allowing the architect to coerce the client into perceiving his story and allowing guests to expand their own.

References:

[1]“Chapter 2/The Mind’s Eye.” Sensory Design, by Joy Monice Malnar and Frank Vodvarka, University of Minnesota Press, 2004, p. 21. Paragraph 2.

[2] “Chapter 1/Spatial Constructors.” Sensory Design, by Joy Monice Malnar and Frank Vodvarka, University of Minnesota Press,2004, p. 15. Paragraph 2.

[3]“Intro/indd” The Eyes of the Skin: Architecture and the Senses, by Juhani Pallasmaa, John Wiley & Sons., 2012, p. 12. Paragraph 4.

Author:

Elder I. Sanchez


As a recent Masters in Architecture Graduate, a devotion to ideologies that affect communities in positive ways are of great interest, due to them helping design forms of architecture through a parametric approach.


Therefore, I am very grateful for the opportunity in defining a portion of the vast exposition that is sensory architecture and its positive effects on people.