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Design Boundary to Enhance Architectural Experience

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

Image Credit: © passer-by | Flickr

The experience of architecture often involves separating the exterior from the interior. Occasionally, the two meet through windows, doors, or other building fenestrations. Such a separation is not always a bad thing — since much can be accomplished through a design which separates the exterior from the interior. For example, the element of surprise or the element of safety can both be achieved by using an architectural skin’s boundary as a separator.

But what happens when an architecture’s skin disappears? If it becomes transparent, what does that mean for the occupants inside? Also, what does that mean for visitors in the exterior?

Well, there is such a building that uses boundary (or lack thereof) to enhance experience for visitors. You see, the Vertikale Kletterhalle is a climbing gym that makes use of its boundary to enhance experience. Its walls morph from day to night — when the walls become transparent to reconnect climbers with nature as they enjoy their sport. (1) To get a good idea of how this works, simply watch the following video.


As you can see, time passes and the feel of climbing within this gym changes. Thus, time becomes a key player making the building’s boundary active. By night, it becomes transparent and climbers feel the volume of space that accompanies and juxtaposes their climbing wall surface. And all of this leads to enhanced experience — where the vertical climb becomes a unique, one-of-a-kind experience at this location. Thus, composing a powerful sense of place.

Perhaps such a boundary-less space motivates climbers, and perhaps it also inspires them. After all, since nature “comes into” the climbing space once the sun sets, each climb will be different. Thus, much can be learned from the Vertikale Kletterhalle project. And at the forefront is this — to enhance experience within architecture don’t forget to take advantage of boundary elements, for they can allow spaces to merge, be juxtaposed, or feed off of one another by using not only material, but also nature together with time.

So, as you design your architecture, make each space speak with its boundary — whether that boundary serves to unite or separate, be aware of the advantages and disadvantages of each. Use boundary (or lack thereof) on purpose within your projects.


(1) Walker, Daniela. This Building Becomes Transparent at Night. Mashable. Feb 8, 2013.


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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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