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Sensory Design: Lessons from a Tea Cup

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

Image Credit: © patrick george | Flickr
“Architecture is basically a container of something. I hope they will enjoy not so much the teacup, but the tea.”
— Yoshio Taniguchi

This quote highlights why sensory design is indispensable. The act of enjoying the tea is fostered by the teacup just as sensory architecture enhances occupant experience. Both the teacup and sensory design must be sensitive to human needs.

With interactive design, a sensory teacup could integrate user sensory system factors like temperature and flavor. The same sensory teacup could also adapt itself to the particular tastes of each individual drinker. The sensory teacup could even adapt itself in real-time as its tea level decreases. And yes, the tea cup could even use technology to make the tea more physiologically healthy. In the end, this tea cup still exists to enhance the experience of drinking that tea.

As architects that design for the senses, it helps to understand latest findings in other fields such as the field of neuroscience — where much is being uncovered about how the human brain and central nervous system work. As we tap into the inner workings behind the senses, emotion and physiology, we will be better able to create spaces that comfort, motivate, teach, remind and enhance experience. (This becomes evermore important as new technologies and materials surface.)

The question then becomes — Can we, as architects, enhance experience without losing sight of what makes that experience so special in the first place?


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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