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Maximizing the Sense of Touch in Adaptive Architecture

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

‍Image: woodleywonderworks | Flickr

One of the most profound and informative senses that we have is our sense of touch. This sense informs so much of the way we “see” the world around us. Some have even said that touch is the greatest of all the senses.

It is interesting to think that in some way all of our other senses engage in some form of “touch” as we experience the things which make up our environments. Thus, as we move through architectural spaces, we touch what we perceive and we perceive what we touch — we extract it, interpret it and make meaning of it in our memory and through learning. You can say that “touch” helps us to understand.

Again, touch can involve all of the senses in some way. When you touch something it has been said that you can “feel” it. One could suppose that this means that you completely take it in through the senses — to cognitively and emotionally form a perception and then an impression.

Interactivity Fosters a “Touch” Mindset

With the advancement of interactive design, architecture is becoming more responsive and ultimately adaptive. Your occupants will be paying a different kind of attention to your designs as it begins to engage your occupants in renewed ways. So, will the way your occupants “touch” your design change?

As buildings gain more sophisticated user interfaces, transient sensorial stimuli and information networked to help it make smart decisions — interactive and adaptive designs will call upon occupants to touch buildings more, less and differently (depending on the situation).

The “impressions” that your occupant will form while experiencing your architecture could potentially be more immersive, automated, controlled or even augmented. For instance, they could experience something like a virtual augmented display personalized for them as they travel through your design. Hence, their impression and understanding of you designed space is likely to change.

There are also implications involving the very notion of not only how an occupant “touches”, but also how far their “touch” can reach. With the development of adaptive architecture, be prepared to design architecture where your occupant’s “touch” can have greater consequence — not only for them, but also for your building as a whole.

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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 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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