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How to Push the Boundaries of Architectural Technology


Maria Lorena Lehman


Founder — Sensing Architecture ® Academy

‍Image Credit: © Sergey Nivens | Fotolia

The Challenge of Designing with Technology

As a designer, the way you think about the materials and technologies that go into your environment makes all the difference. In fact, the way that you integrate these will either help or hinder the occupants your architecture strives to serve. After all, the way you select and apply such materials and technologies will determine the effectiveness of your design. This is why it is critical for you as a designer to understand what separates “painful” environments from proactive ones.

Architectural technology can often act as a double-edged sword. If integrated properly, it can benefit building occupants – but if improperly integrated, technology can greatly detract from all that your environment is trying to accomplish. When thinking about sensory design, technology becomes an important factor to consider. You see, the right technology in the right place at the right time can really bring great benefit. However, it often becomes challenging for a designer to predict every occupant scenario that would make a particular material and technology the perfect fit for their occupant. Yet, much can be done during the design phase to greatly minimize technology’s detrimental effects, while maximizing its benefits.

Questions to Ask Before Integrating Technology

Have you ever considered doing an analysis of a particular technology which will be integrated into your building design? Have you ever tried to innovate what technology can do – perhaps by guiding the way it gets used and integrated once within a design? By taking time within your design process to explore different ways your building technologies can be used to help occupants, you will likely unlock new innovative paths (while also preventing detrimental paths from forming). The following are three questions you can ask yourself, to help you extract the most benefit from the technologies you integrate into your architectural designs:

  • 1) Have I ever experienced this technology in use before? If so, were there any problems that surfaced because of the way it was being used? What did I like about it? What did I not like about it?
  • 2) Are there any opportunities that unlock if this technology were to be developed further? How might my design help this technology to perform even better? And do I see any reasons why this technology would be detrimental to my design once in use?
  • 3) If I did not use this technology, will the architectural design suffer? Or, is this technology an indispensable part of my design that helps it to bring maximum benefit for occupants? If so, what makes this technology so indispensable? Can my environmental design help to amplify and optimize the benefits it brings? If so, how?

The Importance Of a Technology Analysis

As you can see, by asking yourself the right questions, you can begin to brainstorm and uncover underlying reasons why a technology should or should not be used in an environment. Furthermore, you can guide the development of technology so that it can do more — without being a detrimental architectural component. It is important to be very conscientious about what gets added to your architectural design, because every component you add will have aspects about it that contribute or detract from what your design is trying to accomplish.

Take the time to analyze the components that you will add to your architectural design. Do not integrate them without considering what effect they will have, how you can push their benefits further, and how you can guide their future development with your design.

If you wish to understand this topic at deeper levels, I highly recommend reading my new book entitled Adaptive Sensory Environments. It will expand the way you think about technology within architectural design.

Click here to learn about (or to order) Adaptive Sensory Environments.


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 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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