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Architecture beyond the eye

© Agnesa Thaçi

We often talk and learn about architecture and cities through what the eye can catch and create an evaluation of the place by just looking at it visually. By doing so we suppress other senses which leads us towards a half experience of the place.

While this experience takes place, what we unconsciously avoid is the sound and the feeling we get by not only observing the space and materials but also by touching and listening to them. Such actions can define a space and give it a sense of a memorable place.

Moreover, different spaces for different people can have different meanings, when personal experience with the materials and sounds is attached to them.

We go by projecting, visualizing a space and all technical aspects of it, but to truly experience and give it a sense of place, you need to attach to it the element of sound, scent, or touch.

A kitchen is not a kitchen without the scent or the smell of food being cooked or eaten there, and a living room is not a living room without the potential of gathering with loved ones or the sense of relaxation it can provide.

We experience and feel we belong to a working place, by getting used to the sound of our computer or the sound of our tastier when we're typing. It is the sense of place we create when we pour our coffee in the morning, the conversations with colleagues or even just looking through the windows across the street.

I think that the true meaning of architecture and how it affects human experience can be found in these spaces we experience every day, more than those we experience once in a long time.

It is the places where we spend most of the time that gradually has an effect and shape us as a person and there are some architectural components that give a better sensory involvement and highlight this experience, such as; bigger and open windows that give us a feeling of a wider and more open space, by overtaking our visual observation towards a sense of freedom created between those walls.

In this aspect, there is another factor that affects our senses, the one of lightning, especially natural lightning, which gives the place a sense of freshness and calmness.

This demonstrates that the way we arrange a space by using different materials or through the activities which take place on it, shapes our human experience.

Combining materials and colors can create different reactions to our being, by giving and spreading different emotions.

For example, if a surface is harsh in touching, by giving it a specific color, or a warm tone, changes our perception about it. The particular reason for this is the way we perceive it; we first identify and come in contact with the color, and then we come in acquaintance with the sense of touching. Obviously, different experiences can come, also by attaching different materials and colors to different situations in our past personal experiences.

As a good example of Sensory Architecture, I will mention the “Digital water pavilion” by Carlo Ratti Assoc., which was created on the theme of using water as an architectural element. (Fig.1& 2)

In this flexible and multifunctional project, the whole building is made of water; the walls are composed of digitally controlled water droplets, which can generate writing, patterns, images, or access spaces.

(Fig 1) It has no doors or windows but when you approach it, it opens up to let you in. Also, the roof can flatten to the ground level and in this way, architecture disappears.[1](Fig 2) The way that people can engage with the building and experience it, is not only by watching it, but also feeling it through the sound of water, or splashes of it, while internal partitions can shift depending on the number of people present.

When looking at this picture, one can immediately know what it sounds there, what it smells like there, and what it feels like to be in it. In this case, the eye is like a portal for other senses to be manifested.

To take this on a more personal scale, I can associate the water droplets with a rainy day back at my family home or associate the roof water with the river surface back in my town when I would walk past it when I was a child.

To sum up, everything that has been stated so far, through this design can be seen the potential of architecture to engage all the senses and allow people to experience and embrace all other things in order to evoke or create memories and emotions.




Agnesa is a 26 years old Architect from Kosova and is currently working in an Architectural Office, based in Kaçanik (hometown). She likes to read and learn new things regarding the topic of Architecture and how it affects people’s everyday life. During her free time, she loves reading, watching movies, listening to music, and cooking.

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