'We are not just minds, we are carnal': Leading architects on sensory design


The design of spaces can powerfully shape sensory experiences, but how important is it to think about sound, smell, touch and sight when planning a building? Leading architects around the world share their thoughts about sensory design with Blueprint


Illustrations by Harry Tennant

 

‘Thinking holistically about the sensorial experience of a space is essential to establishing meaningful relationships between architecture and user. In many ways, architecture operates as a framing device, outlining spaces for life to happen. The possibilities and shape of that life really become palpable when the material of the senses — sounds, textures and smell — fills that frame.’
David Adjaye, principal, Adjaye Associates

–––

‘Architecture is a multisensory discipline, and appealing to all senses is the best way to achieve the highest quality of life in our designs. Fresh air, working with daylight, supporting physical motions and evoking emotions...’
Nathalie de Vries, founding partner, MVRDV

–––

‘A wonderful spatial experience is born only after all human senses are unconsciously mobilised. Designers cannot control everything, because there is an infinite diversity of the world itself, but we should listen to the diversity beyond these designs, and we should be able to create such a space that accepts and transforms the diversity. We need a delicate sensitivity to uncertain things.’
Sou Fujimoto, Director, Sou Fujimoto Architects

 

 

‘Architecture is about an entire experience. All the senses that are stimulated are vectors of that architecture.’
Asif Khan

–––

‘With modern technology we can do things that have never even been dreamed of before. But don’t overestimate technology — at the end, no matter how much of it we have, we will still want to have a real experience, because we have a body. We are not just minds, we are carnal, we are incarnated; it is a visceral experience, so architecture will always play an incredibly important role in this primordial sense of light, of weight, of transcendence, of hope, of dreams.’
Daniel Libeskind, founder, Studio Libeskind

–––

‘I’m interested in setting a stage that allows many different events and encounters, and this means introducing a flexibility in how the senses can be stimulated. When designing Casa da Musica, we played with the contrast between intimate, silent spaces, and very loud and reverberating ones, celebrating architecture as a sensory experience.’
Ellen van Loon, partner, OMA

 

 

‘Looking back to the 20th century, architecture was regarded or treated as a subject for photography, TV and the internet — as a visual material, rather than a physical being. That was the culture of that period. However, I now feel that people are coming back to the real life of the five senses. Architects will be expected to design incorporating these senses.’
Kengo Kuma, Principal, Kengo Kuma and Associates

–––

‘We have a special blue which recurs in our projects, but it is just one element in very many we use to compose for the senses. For example, I love different bricks and their textural, tactile sense.’
Francine Houben, founding partner and creative director, Mecanoo Architecten

–––

‘There’s so much room for building designers today to be more sensitive to the emotional and sensual impact of their work. For decades, soulfulness has been absent from most new buildings as the cerebral has been prioritised over raw human experience. But perhaps there’s now space for a new sensibility, closer to that of the original master builder? The world is utterly desperate for soulful, meaningful places that balance intellectual creation with a humanistic affinity for materials and tactility.’
Thomas Heatherwick, founder, Heatherwick Studio

 

 

‘Textures, surfaces, skins, details are essential. And the body is central. Without any particular form, the space is only referring to the human body. Architecture becomes tactile and space is dancing for the body.’
Odile Decq, founder, Studio Odile Decq

–––

‘The phenomena of the space of a room, the sunlight entering through a window, and the colour and reflection of materials on a wall and floor all have integral relationships. The materials of architecture communicate through resonance and dissonance, just as instruments in musical composition, producing thought- and sense-provoking qualities in the experience of a place.’
Steven Holl, Principal, Steven Holl Architects

–––

‘Architecture needs to be culturally critical and physically visceral to reach people.’
Alex de Rijke, founding director, dRMM

–––





Working on something exciting? Submit your project to Design Curial.

Submit project to DesignCurial



Compelo Ltd Registered Office: John Carpenter House, John Carpenter Street, EC4Y 0AN, England. No: 06339167.Copyright 2018 Compelo. All rights reserved.