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How Touch Technologies Yield More Personalized Responsive Architecture


Maria Lorena Lehman


Founder — Sensing Architecture ® Academy

Image Credit: © stebulus | Flickr

As we interact with buildings, we touch them. And by touching them, we usually get the building to respond in a manner that meets our needs. You can touch building features like doorknobs, flooring, handrails, wall switches, doorbells, and windows. Yet, when you touch these building features — you usually touch them in one way, to yield a “one-size-fits-all” type of response.

Well, touch technologies are now evolving, where sensors are being embedded in building features like doorknobs. And as a result, building doorknobs are becoming able to read not just that there is a touch, but that the touch was comprised of certain fingers. (1) You see, with sensors, buildings will be able to read how you touch them — taking behavioral gestures to a whole new level.

In fact, the following video will give you a great overview of just how touching technologies are emerging. As you watch the video, be sure to think of how such innovations can help your architectural designs.


By distinguishing greater detail in touch, a larger touch “vocabulary” and accurate language emerges. As an architect, you can use this language to devise architecture that responds to its occupants in more customized ways. Thus, by creating opportunity for greater variation in the way occupants use their buildings — a building will have more in-between states. This, of course, allows for greater personalization.

So, as you design your architecture, think of the different ways in which your occupant “touches” your building to accomplish or meet a need. Then think of how your architecture can respond in more personalized ways to your occupant’s touch. Really, your architecture is constantly interacting and engaging occupants — and with new advancements in sensing technologies, you can begin to have your building “read” occupant wants in much greater detail.

Hence, we are left with an architecture of nuance — where building features can sense occupant needs from much more subtle gestural cues. As technologies advance to make more of this possible, be sure to capitalize on such advancements, to help make your architecture more responsive and more personalized.


1) Nosowitz, Dan. Video: Touch-Sensitive Doorknobs Could Lock or Unlock with the Curl of a Finger. May, 7, 2012.


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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