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How to Design Architecture for Occupant Memory

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

‍Image Credit: © Agsandrew | Fotolia

When Memory Precedes Experience

Have you ever considered how you would like your architectural environments to be remembered? Yes, there are certain famous buildings that are recognized in an instant, and at times the “images” of such buildings spread throughout the world in iconic fashion. In this sense, a building can become so famous that people have an impression of the building before they ever personally experience it for themselves. The memory precedes the experience.

But what happens when the experience of place creates the memory? And how can this influence and strengthen the way you design? You may ask yourself: How do I want people to feel after they experience the spaces I design? Will they feel inspired, happy, safe, or even like they grew in some way? By reverse-engineering from the resulting memory you would like your building occupants to gain, you can orchestrate environmental features as a fluid journey that fosters such emotions. This is how architecture becomes “greater than the sum of its parts” – by going beyond only meeting short-term needs, to also inspire thoughts, feelings, and behaviors in people that uplift life for themselves and others.

Personalizing Memory to Uplift Quality of Life

What will your architecture help its occupants to accomplish? And how will it do this?

Buildings work in conjunction with other design innovations. Social media through mobile devices and wearable technologies are just a few of the ways architecture can work to help its occupants improve their own potential. You see, as architecture increasingly engages with occupants in real-time, such environments will be able to personalize experience to their needs and goals. And the more personalized architecture becomes, the more “tuned” the memories it creates will be. In this way, architecture becomes an active player in its occupants’ lives – as it engages with them in entirely new ways.

The activities that take place within an environment become a part of its memory. And the stories told about those experiences become a part of the collective memory of that place. So as you design, think about how the thoughts, feelings, and actions of each individual who experiences your space will contribute to its collective memory. What innovation will your architecture spark: within an individual, a collective, or a culture? And what memory will these innovations lead toward, that help to make the world a better place?





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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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