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How Architecture Experience and Meaning Uplift Your Design Quality

By Maria Lorena Lehman — Get more articles like this sent to your email HERE.

‍Image Credit: © iQoncept | Fotolia

Why Architecture Experience and Meaning Matter

When one extracts meaning from experience, value is given through a lesson learned, a memory formed, or even a new idea created. And since environments are catalysts for experience, it is wise for designers to give attention to what meaning is both conveyed and interpreted.

Architecture experience and meaning go hand-in-hand. Experience often leads to meaning, and meaning gives value to experience. So, what role does architecture play in all of this? And how can your designs pull from what matters most to strengthen the benefits they bring?

Drawing Meaning from Architectural Stories

Environments are like stories. They have a beginning, a middle, and an end. They juxtapose, create climactic moments, and even foreshadow impending events. Environments guide occupants through them, to experience architectural storylines that can bring them closer to themselves, each other, and their surrounding contexts.

It is the meaning behind the story that your architecture conveys that can make all the difference to occupants who experience your design. This is often what separates a mere building from poetic architecture. So, you may ask yourself as you design: What story does my architecture tell? And does this story matter for those that experience it?

Intention versus Interpretation of Meaning

The story that you set to “tell” through your architecture will certainly provide experience for your occupants. And this story contains within it an intended meaning. But is this what your occupants will interpret? What if they find different or other meaning from your architectural design?

Often, an occupant’s past experiences can enhance the meaning of your work. By bringing memory together with an open and curious mind, occupants can not only capture the meaning your architecture brings them, but it can extend and/or deepen meaning. Essentially, an architectural experience can tap into an occupant’s soul to create memory, learn a lesson, or even spark a new idea.

Meaning can also be less tangible – where an architectural experience can touch its occupant on even more profound levels. This is experience derived from the spirit of place, where meaning is felt all around. In this case, perhaps meaning was there before the architecture was ever built. For this, the architecture would give experience to meaning.

Finding the Story within Your Architectural Design

As you create an environment: What story is it telling you? And what story are you trying to tell through that environment? How will it help those that experience it? And what meaning will they draw from their experience of it? These are the questions that architects must ask of their designs…to get to the core of why they are building.

Find the story within your design. How does it guide your occupants on a journey? Yes, there is always the physical journey an environment invites its inhabitants to experience, but how does the physical translate into the intellectual, emotional, and even spiritual? I encourage you to answer this question within your design to take your project to the next level.




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 multi award-winning visionary author, designer, and educator from the United States. Maria holds a Bachelor of Architecture with Honors from Virginia Tech and a Master in Design with Distinction from Harvard University Graduate School of Design. CLICK HERE to learn more.

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