Design for Our Senses

Our senses give us the ability to understand our surrounding environment and space when in full consciousness. They are responsible for the processing of the built as well as sociological environment by means of physiological and psychological evaluation. Perception of space is directly proportional to the physical as well as psychological capacities of the user. These capacities vary on the basis of age, sex, mood,experience and sequence of movement to name a few. The sensorial perception works in congregation of the many effect that the space has on our senses. Therefore, we can say that this very perception of space for any individual is a cumulative process in which the senses compensate mutually to percieve the surrounding. Our senses allow us to deduce the characteristices of a space in terms of location or directionality, range of perception, sense of depth, reference positioning and scale. These characteristice hence allow for the creation of a geo-spatial indentity. If suppose one of the senses of a user were to fail, it may not allow him/her to experience the space completely and hence his/her perception will also be of equal level, thus proving that perception is limited to our capacities. A perceiver in a space would rely on his/her sensorial recognition of 3 main aspects in a space such as The environment and its characteristice, objects in the space and  the organisms in the space. Environmental characteristice include colours, lights, texture & finish of the space. Along with the sensory stimulation due to the objects and the organisms, a user derives a perception of the space. Different types of built environments bring about different and unique sensory experiences for people.

Let’s try understanding the role of each of the senses. We begin with sense of sight.
The sense of sight is the primary reponse mechanism to a user’s surrounding environment as it also has the greatest range of stimulation. Visual perception is the ability to interpret the surrounding environment by processing information contained and concluded in visible light. An optical experience gives the understanding of scale, material qualities, forms & shapes, colour and more. This in turn leads to the perception of depth of space. We are able to comprehend the depth and form of a space because of processing of signals that our sensory organs, our eyes, send to our brains. All of this occurs in the visual system, which is based on three main stages. The first stage is the perception of movement, location & spatial organisation. The second stage is colour perception and the third, perception of shapes. Through this systematic order of processing of information, we, the users, are capable of visual recognition. In architecture, the application of visual recognition in design is done by making use of the visual system by means of architectural aspects or features such as lighting, wayfinding, directional guide, partitioning of space et al. When a user or occupant enters a space, he or she adapt and adjust to the surroundings in stages while processing the various visual stimuli. A room’s or open environment’s details such as lighting, materials, geometrical aspects, colours, provide opportunities for better perception of the space over a period of time. To conclude this article, I would only say that more understanding is therefore needed about the visual perception of architecure to design for a better experience of the masses. And following which, it is necessary to also study the effects of design upon the other senses and their relationship to the design process and final product. What we see is what we know and You and I would agree that we only believe in what we see by our own eyes.

References from
And Degen, Monica Montserrat and Rose, Gillian (2012). The sensory experiencing of urban design: the
role of walking and perceptual memory. Urban Studies, 49(15) pp. 3271–3287.

Akshay Ashok Salunkhe



IRIANS- The Neuroscience Institute


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