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Design at the Edge of Architectural Perception

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

Image Credit: © Dirk Weiblen | Source: V2Com


Uplifting quality of life for occupants is often the primary aim of designing environments for human perception. Such places exude heightened experiential qualities including orientation, sense of place, and designing for the classical senses to create environments that help occupants to thrive. But what happens when designing for human perception leads to a more surreal experience? What happens when an environment is purposefully designed to bring occupants to the “edge of perceptional boundaries”? (1)

The Nyx project by Alberto Caiola Studio presents a “hand-drawn architecture of light” located in Shanghai, China. (1) This rooftop bar plays with one’s visual perception as it transiently shifts between abstraction and reality with its 21,000 meters of UV reactive cord that glows blue within the black light. (1) From the image above, one can see how this immersive project invites occupants into what feels like a three-dimensional architectural drawing. This project certainly pushes the human senses into new territory, while simultaneously providing an “augmented physical experience” (1) that pulls from the past — with its classical column ruins that also transport one into the future through sensory-shifting abstraction.


The Nyx project serves as example for how you as an architect can push perceptual boundaries, not only through virtual architectural representation, but also through physical architectural experience. The Nyx project feels as though the virtual and physical realms have fused to create a unique environment that challenges many “sense of place” assumptions and standards. What is created is a space that challenges how we build, and experience that built world.

As you design, I invite you to think about human perception more deeply. How can you bend perception to find new and innovative ways to uplift quality of life for your building occupants? After all, there may be great opportunity within your next project to tap into human perception in entirely new ways. Just as with the Nyx project, your designs can challenge standards of perception to create amazing places that exude heightened performance.


(1) Alberto Caiola Studio. (2019) Hacking Visual Perception, Alberto Caiola cross-pollinates classical archetypes with virtual hues. V2COM.




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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