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Using Interactive Lenses to Enhance Occupant Experience in Buildings


Maria Lorena Lehman


Founder — Sensing Architecture ® Academy

‍Image Credit: © Iuliia Timchenko | Dreamstime

Architecture is Getting Even More Personal

As new technologies are being developed, architecture is getting better at communicating with its occupants. For example, real-time communication can occur between a building’s system and an occupant’s clothing — or other worn devices, like interactive lenses.

So, does this mean that occupants will be able to control certain aspects of a building they are visiting? Yes, you can see this already happening in certain interactive installations. Hopefully, such integrations will mean that buildings will be better tailored to meet an occupant’s specific needs.

To get a better idea of how this all might come together, let’s take a look at a new emerging technology by the German research society “Fraunhofer”:

Displaying Information on the Lenses of your Glasses

Here’s the headline by Stuart Fox:

“A German company turns regular glasses into an eye-motion-controlled PDA screen.” (1)

With a display screen on your lenses just imagine the many activities and interactions that could be integrated into your daily life. When tied to architecture, the possibilities are limitless.

Opening Channels of Communication Between Building and Occupant

Designing an architecture that syncs with worn devices will provide for almost limitless innovation. Such technologies will make architects think about building experience in a renewed way.

Of course, occupants will still need certain primary needs met — such as temperature control and way-finding. However, interactive innovations will enable buildings to personalize information and other stimuli to better an occupant’s experience (in real-time).

Such innovations, like the “information glasses”, open channels of communication between the building and the occupant — where the building can “speak” to the occupant through the glasses as well. This has potential to take interactive architectural design to a whole new level.

Here are a few examples of how this might work by integrating those “information glasses”:

  • WAY-FINDING — Building signage becomes dynamic and is tailored to your specific needs (not only where you need to go but also information about where you are).
  • WORKING — When working on a task with your hands, wouldn’t it be helpful to have real-time imagery in front of you (that you can control with your eyes)? Perhaps the room environment can also change depending on your “eye-controlled navigation”.
  • SHOPPING — While shopping, it might be helpful to have an interactive “shopping list” in your line-of-sight. (Of course, stores will probably figure out a way to market to you through your lenses.) The “micro-architecture” islands of products may even interact with your list, or your selection process.
  • LEARNING — What if you’re taking photos as you tour a new city? These retina-controlled glasses might teach you the history about the places you visit. This could also be coordinated with real-time happenings within the buildings that you approach.
  • RELAXING — Sipping coffee while at your favorite cafe, worn technologies might communicate with the restaurant to display their menu, dessert/drink options, signal your waiter/waitress or simply indicate that you are ready for the check. (Not to mention that you could read a book “in” your glasses while enjoying your coffee!) By changing the role of the waitor or waitress, architects could rethink restaurant design.

The Challenge

Innovations like the “information glasses” are good because they cause architects to think about buildings in a new light. However, there are some challenges.

For instance, the merger between architecture and “information glasses” must be complementary — so one does not detract from the other. (We wouldn’t want building occupants to not appreciate the beautiful architectural features or functions because the glasses “covered” them unnecessarily.

Both interactive technologies and architecture should “sync”, where each feeds into the other; yet, allows the inherent beauty of each to shine through.


(1) Fox, Stuart. Heads-Up Display Embedded In Glasses. Popular Science. June 3, 2009.


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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