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How to Design Architectural Interactivity that Emotionally Connects

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

‍Image Credit: © RachelCroft | Pixabay


As interactivity continues to be integrated into designed environments, it is important to explore how such interactivity can emerge into forming the behavioral character of a design. With each interaction between design element and building occupant, interactive architectural environments form impressions in the memory of their occupants. Yet, the question remains: Is the interactive character emitting from an environmental design purposeful and consciously pre-designed? Or is it simply emanating from the design without the designer ever having given this dimension any thought.

Interaction in design can be significantly distilled. For example, if a building occupant turns on a light switch then that is interaction. But what if such interaction becomes more frequent, where the environment invites its occupant to engage with it in purposeful ways? For example, through interactivity a window within a room can interact with sunlight and the view as it orchestrates a beautiful vantage point for a person to see out of the window (from their specific location within the room). In this case, the environment’s dynamic behavior may be remembered as “beautiful”, “poetic”, or “being one with nature”. Whatever the case, associations are made, and the building occupant remembers this environmental design not only because of how it looks, but because of how it made them feel. This emotional connection has a lot to do with the design of the environment’s interactivity.


As an architectural designer, it is important for you to be aware of not only how your design project invites occupants to engage and interact with it, but also it is important to consciously design for those interactions. Be mindful about how each interaction is impacting your occupant, and design for the cumulative effect of those interactions as they form a narrative. After all, the sequence and narrative journey that your environmental design exudes will build the character and personality behind your design that emotionally connects with people.


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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 an award-winning 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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