Multisensory Architecture

“Architecture is the art of reconciliation between ourselves and the world, and this mediation takes place through the senses” - Finnish architect Juhani Pallasmaa.

There's always more to a room than meets the eye. Did you know that architecture not only involves the sense of sight, touch, smell, but also smell and taste?

Multisensory architecture involves two or more of the five human senses. Different elements of architecture engage different senses. Engaging all the senses is the ultimate way for the users to connect with the space and bring architecture to life.

What Are The Different Senses In Architecture?

They are-

  1. Visual- the sense of sight
  2. Aural- the sense of hearing
  3. Tactile- the sense of touch
  4. Gustatory- the sense of taste
  5. Olfactory- the sense of smell

The Sense Of Sight

  • Sense of vision is known to capture 70% of one’s attention.
  • This is the sense that is predominantly focused on while designing a space.
  • Color, size, weight, order and spaces are some elements perceived through vision.
  • Colors and brightness of the space have the ability to impact a person's mood.
  • Curved shapes are preferred over rectangular forms and similarly, forms angled upward or downward are perceived as threatening.
  • The visual sense has the capacity to stimulate the other senses. 
  • The design of a building goes way beyond just the sense of vision and the other senses need to be given importance. 

Church Of Light

AD Classics: Church of the Light / Tadao Ando Architect & Associates - Stairs
The Sense Of Light
  • The church of light in Osaka, Japan was built by architect Tadao Ando.
  • The building is a representation of duality- showcasing darkness and lightness, solid and void.
  • On placing the cross on the east facade, the architect is able to provide ample daylight which transforms the dark space into an illuminated box. 
  • Though the overall approach to the design of the church may be minimalistic, the skillful placement of light and the right usage of the material makes it interesting and one of his best works.

The Sense Of Hearing

  • The space and form of buildings dictate how we perceive sound within it.
  • Generally, hearing as a sense is taken into consideration only in sound related spaces like auditoriums, dance and music studios, etc.
  • Sound as a factor should also be considered in any ordinary building.
  • Integrating sounds of the environment can help us connect with the surroundings of the building.
  • Unwanted sounds can also be blocked by using buffers like plants.
  • The right sound absorbing or sound reflecting material should be used, to provide a suitable environment for the users’ comfort.

Falling Water

The Sense Of Hearing
  • The falling water in Pennsylvania is an architectural marvel built by Frank Lloyd Wright.
  • It's a residence situated over a waterfall and ensures that the inhabitants would always be able to hear the movement of the waterfall and be aware of its presence.
  • The gurgling and rushing of the falls can always be heard but can only be seen at very specific moments. 
  • The sound of the river is used to entwine nature and architecture, and interior and exterior.

The Sense Of Touch

  • Touch reveals what the sight sees.
  • It urges the user to stop and explore the materials they see.
  • Textures have the ability to invoke certain feelings and shape how we feel in the space.
  • Choosing the right materials is important. Natural materials like wood and stone are examples of materials that greatly convey texture.
  • Tactile sense helps the users physically connect with the space and truly understand it.

Therme Vals

  • Therme vals by Peter Zumthor is a bath located in the springs of Switzerland. 
  • It is built from multiple layers of locally quarried Valser Quartzite slab. 
  • The user experiences many different tactile elements, like, steam saturated air, bubbling water and the warm stone on the bare skin.
The Sense Of Touch

The Sense Of Smell

  • Smell has the power to bring back memories.
  • Buildings are usually only built to ensure odor is not present in the space.
  • Inculcating fragrances should also be a part of the design as certain scents are stress relievers and have a psychological impact on the mind.
  • Smells are used to increase the functionality of the space. 
  • By making smell a part of the design, the users can associate with the space and create a strong bond with it.

D'arenberg Cube

The Sense Of Smell
  • It is a restaurant built in Australia.
  • The ground floor has a winery, along with fruits and flowers.
  • The first floor has a restaurant.
  • The customers at the restaurant are serenaded with the aroma of the wine, which indirectly directs them to the winery at the ground floor.

The Sense Of Taste

  • Taste in architecture refers to the impact the design has on our palate.
  • The sense of smell and seeing are responsible for inducing the smell of taste.
  • Changing color and brightness of the surrounding lights impact how we taste the food.
  • Certain colors have the ability to induce taste. For example- A bright lemon yellow may inspire a sour taste whereas a green color may induce bitterness.

Carlo Scarpa's  Works

  • Carlo Scarpa was an italian architect whose works are known for being multi sensual, especially in his ability to invoke taste through design. 
  • This comes from the carefully crafted details, sensuous materials and bright colors.
The Sense Of Taste

Involving all five senses in the design might be a difficult task, but we must aim to ensure that the user is able to use the space comfortably with ease and at the same time, form a deep connection with it. 

Multisensory design becomes a necessity when it comes to designing for those who are specially abled. They may use an alternative sense to explore the space. Here is an example of a building that is specially designed for such a cause- 

School For Blind, Pattaya, Thailand

School for blind
  • The main sense that is focused in the classroom is the sense of touch.
  • There are blocks in the shape of animals, shapes for the students to feel and learn.
  • The wooden tactile floor has a different texture around the tables and walls to identify danger points.
  • The floors have embossed letters for the students to identify where they are.
  • Different walls have different textures to distinguish them.
  • For students with partial vision, the study blocks are painted with different colors and the surroundings have neutral earth tones to avoid distractions.
  • Bright lights with hot colors are used to direct attention to a specific wall.
  • Different ceiling levels produce unique sounds for each space.
  • By standing within the radius of the table fan, the students can understand that he is near a table.
  • Air conditioning indicates the proximity of walls.

This way, multisensory design has been used to make the classroom interactive and comfortable for these students. 

Classroom Makeover For The Blind / Creative Crews - Image 4 of 36
Multisensory Architecture