"Sensing Spaces"

I have found it at times tough to find others who try or even want to think about spaces as a sensorial experience.  Writing my thesis on it in college and studying it through each project I touched in those five years, I can understand why.  A tough subject to manifest, but also a tough one to convince clients to believe in, experiential design often falls by the wayside in the early VE phase of any major project.  It's important to remember that architecture is a branch of the arts. While I emphasize that architecture itself is not an art form in the traditional sense, it encapsulates many of the core concepts that artists have used for thousands of years to create beautiful pieces.  This blog from one of NBBJ's Interior Architects made me realize there certainly are enough of us out there to make this more of a prevalent force in architecture and design.  

This entry is from another blog you can find here on NBBJ's blog site nbbX.

In mid-March I visited the “Sensing Spaces: Architecture Reimagined” exhibition at the RoyalAcademy in London, which invited seven architects from around the world to create installations designed to engage the senses. This was an exhibit about architecture that presented — in contrast to models, drawings, renderings and photographs that ask us to think about architecture — built environments that asked visitors to feel the architecture.

I have to admit that I was initially disappointed, not in the show but in my own ability to experience any sort of profound sensorial experience. Despite the fact that the physical perception of space has been a career-long interest of mine, I found my first thoughts going to things like, “I wonder why they didn’t block the view of the roof windows so we only experience the light?” Coming out of the Pezo von Ellrichshausen installation, made of solid, well-hewn Chilean wood, I asked my husband, “So, how did that make you feel?” His answer: “I feel it’s a shame we can’t get beautiful straight lumber like that at home.” Ok, that’s what we thought, but what did we feel?

I started to think we may be hopelessly out of practice when it comes to connecting with how we physically sense and feel things. We have collectively lost the connection between our senses, emotions and vocabulary, having favored our rational, thinking-to-words pathway over our feeling-to-words pathway.

As an architect I've noticed how very rare it is for clients to ask for their projects to feel a certain way or to evoke an emotion or character. Most initial conversations start with practical physical requirements: functions, number or size of rooms, adjacencies. When urged to describe how it should feel, the response often defaults to a description of how it should look.

I understand this is where we are comfortable. Culturally we have evolved to live in a rational, visual world. We are exceptionally good at the visual, and architects have even more visual training than the average person. It’s why we show our clients photo-“realistic” renderings rather than modeling how the spaces might sound. What we've decided constitutes “reality” leaves out so much. So our “realistic” renderings often lead to real buildings with a lot left out.

Learning to feel the spaces with all our senses is a practice, an exercise in mindfulness. It’s something we need to put our attention to — an exercise well worth the reward. As designers we need to heighten our physical and emotional perception of the world in order to be in full command of powerful design media such as sound, air, light, texture, shadow, fragrance… Clients need to expect designers to enrich the experience of the work they commission. We can’t ask our projects to move us if we can’t articulate the feelings we want our buildings and cities to evoke.

- See more at: http://meanstheworld.co/well-being/architecture-sensory-experience#sthash.hFbm9QQv.dpuf