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Sensory Architecture

What comes to your mind when you hear the word ‘Architecture’? Let’s go back to the start, think of a place from your childhood; maybe your school’s canteen or a space where you would often spend time with your friends studying for your exams or maybe just chilling. What about the time when you would look around for a quiet corner to do your thing or just sit to take a breath? That is architecture playing a role in your life without you even realizing it.

Architecture is everywhere. Since the moment you opened your eyes, you have been surrounded by architecture all around you. This connection plays a big part in how we live and perceive our lives. But we often perceive it as a sight for our vision. How a building or space looks rather than how it feels. Architecture is not just a treat for the eye but in fact, it affects all the human senses and impacts our mood. This is what architecture is. It is not how a certain building or space looks like, but rather how it makes us feel. This is ‘Sensory Architecture’ and that is exactly what makes it fascinating and challenging.

Sensory Architecture does not imply just a single building but even the whole urban context consisting of playgrounds, institutes, houses, waterfront, and public facilities makes up the architecture of the city. And sensory architecture does not include only what man has made and put up but in fact; the sun, the weather, the temperature, and everything in nature completes the very nature of ‘Sensory Architecture’. One can say architecture acts as a mediator between natural elements and man-made elements. Hence, it is not surprising to see why architecture impacts all our senses. However, architectural experiences differ for both children and adults in relation to scale, dimension, and perspectives.

Scale studies show how adults and children get to experience the same world differently. Children let go of their emotions and are at the age where they are exploring their surroundings with all senses. Spaces with various dimensions and scales allow children to get creative with their imagination and make them experience even the basic architectural elements like walls and stairs beyond just their primary functions. They do not rely entirely upon their vision which makes one understand why it is the key to creativity in architectural design. Nature elements, human’s creative nature, and all the senses bring architecture to life.

That said, the place which had been built will remain the same but the time, the people, and their moods will change during the day. Imagine a classroom with a window where the sunlight is shining through. The morning shall appear fresh which brings in just the right amount of light to soothe the eye and the mind. The noon hours will be bright making everything seem full of energy and life. And finally, the afternoon will arrive with its soft yellow-orange tone which ends everything in a calm mood and the evening will follow bringing in its quietness.

Architectural experience is a complete dialogue between the mind, body, and the built environment. The incomplete dialogue will die out quickly leaving insignificant impressions. The dominance of vision in architectural experience had made us rely upon it to such an extent that other senses are neglected in the process. This builds up the incomplete dialogue between the two. Many architects and designers are starting to realize this which marks a start towards innovative sensory architecture designs. Designs that will respond to human behavior are involved and senses and not control them.

“The architecture of the eye detaches and controls, whereas haptic architecture engages and unites.”

- Juhani Pallasmaa.

The statement puts light upon the significance of other senses that are involved in architecture. Over remains the years, often architecture would die over time that remains just ocular-centric. For architecture to survive and adapt to the ever-changing world around it, it needs to be open to every sensorial experience and flexible. Vision calculates the distance and time, Touch builds up affection, Sound enhances the perceptive intensity, while Smell and Taste capture the memory of the architecture. Thus, architecture should act like a finely tuned instrument that should impact all our senses at the right moments.




I'm an architecture student from Pakistan. Just another curious person who is always exploring the architectural world around her. Architecture fascinates me. It demands creativity while keeping a realistic balance in between. It is fun as well as challenging.


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