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Why Your Occupants Will Hear What They See in Your Built Environments (Book Review)

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

The Film Sense (affiliate link)

What Neuroscience is Telling Us

When you design and integrate an architectural feature to engage your building occupant, how do you think it affects them? For example, suppose your occupant is walking toward your building and is just about to enter it — during their approach they can see a waterfall feature just on the other side of the glass which separates the exterior from the interior. How do they process your interior design before ever entering it? Do they actually hear that water feature on the other side of the glass which they can only see?

Such are the questions which leading neuroscientists are uncovering. In fact, findings are indicating that when people are presented with only a visual of something, they do actually hear it. So, even though that interior waterfall is acoustically cut off from the exterior, your occupants will still form a perception of it which is made up of processes beyond the visual.

In the article entitled The Brain Hears Just by Seeing in Scientific American, you can listen to a podcast which describes what is happening with the brain when visual cues stimulate auditory perceptions. You will learn that although people may just “see” something, like a rooster crowing, activity in the brain of the observer actually shows a “lighting up” in their audio cortex — similar to how it would light up if they were actually hearing it.

So as it turns out, the different human senses cross-relate and inform each other in some pretty sophisticated ways. This is something you should definitely understand as you design your built environments.

How to Take Findings about Synchronizing Senses a Step Further

A wonderful book which you should read is called The Film Sense (affiliate link) by Sergei Eisenstein. In it is discussed the notion of “montage” and what the merger between the senses (like sight and sound) means for an observer and director or designer.

I like this book because I think it is critical for you as an architect to understand how various senses relate to one another, and what happens when you play with the way they relate to each other by manipulating factors like time (and space). All that you do as a designer will be perceived by the person experiencing it — and the way you feed them sensorial cues makes a huge impact on how your design is received, ultimately affecting the overall quality of your design (and its ability to uplift your occupant’s lifestyle).

When you design your built environments you should know what message you are getting across to your occupant, how that message is received and how it gets processed through factors like occupant behavior, thought and emotion. Practically speaking, some of this may not be so obvious to you while you design, however, your occupants are sophisticated observers and will pick up on the sensorial nuances in your design — whether you intended them or not.

This book, The Film Sense (affiliate link), is a great way to point you toward the path of dissecting how your building occupant’s perceive through their senses, as written from the perspective of film design. I’m sure that by reading this book, you will gain interesting insight equipping you to reach architectural designs with maximum positive impact.


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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