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How Sensory Design Can Help Responsive Architecture Be More Effective

‍Image: roryrory | Flickr

Responsive architecture is design that interacts with people. It engages them with their environment — and it impacts the way they feel, think, and behave. This is where sensory design comes in, because it is a way of designing that places the building occupant at the center, with careful attention to the way a space may impact them both in the short and long term.

You see, by paying attention to the way people experience a space, an architecture can promote better occupant lifestyle outcomes. For instance, if a responsive architecture is helping an occupant with their goal which is to exercise more — then, sensory design becomes an important factor. This is the case because it is with sensory design that an architecture can arrange its environmental stimuli in time along an occupant’s journey. For example, a space may serve to feed occupants through their senses to inspire and teach exercise at just the right time and in just the right way.

A responsive architecture that just interacts with occupants without much attention to how it impacts them is not good. Thus, it is important for sensory design to enter the picture — where analysis and strategy can go into a design process that aims to touch occupants intellectually, physiologically, emotionally, behaviorally, and even spiritually. For instance, by strategizing about how your architecture will impact your occupants behaviorally, you are delving into why certain spatial stimuli combinations work and others don’t in certain instances and for certain outcomes.

So, when you are designing architecture (which engages occupants), try to look for ways that make not only their “in-the-moment” experience better, but their “after-the-moment” outcome better. This would yield an architecture which is proactively helping its occupants to function and feel better. Without sensory design, an architecture would be passive — where it would not engage, and thus, help its occupants.

By targeting the senses through each modality, architecture can unleash its potential to really help those who experience it in real-time. As an architect, it is your arrangement of the environment which will touch occupants positively or negatively — thus, to keep things positive, factor in sensory design. It can make all the difference.

To learn more about how sensory design can help your architecture, consider enrolling in the ArchiSensing Course — where you will get a more detailed understanding about how all of the pieces and parts fit together when it comes to leading-edge architectural design that maximizes sensory design. It’s a great way to turn any project into your dream project.

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what members are saying...
Maria: I came across your website through a reference in today's Architect Weekly ezine and am delighted I did. I'll bookmark your site and check back often. I read the first article and then the second and thirty minutes later realized how much time had passed. I've been practicing for thirty years and have always missed the stimulation of academia. I find each of your brief dissertations sort of like a day in design studio. Thanks for the inspiration.

Ron Ward
AI Group Design
I am excited to see you touch a vein of values in architecture, I have been chasing myself for years. Your depth of involvement in these very deep subjects is really beautiful and passionately dealt with and well written. Sound, color and value, shape, texture, scale, smell.... all definitive measures of the spaces we should be alert to. [...] I will savor the rest of your investigation of sensuality in architecture. I'm Glad I found you.

Dennis McLaughlin
McLaughlin Architect
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Maria Lorena Lehman is a visionary author, designer, and educator from the United States. Maria holds a Bachelor of Architecture with Honors from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and a Master in Design with Distinction from Harvard University Graduate School of Design.

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