Sensing Spaces: Architecture Reimagined

By Valerie Mace

On Thursday 27th of february 2014, we took LCC BA Spatial Design students to the Sensing Spaces exhibition at the Royal Academy. The RA invited 6 architectural practices from all over the world to create a full size pavilion/installation each in the gallery spaces: Alvaro Siza and Eduardo Suto de Moura (Porto, Portugal), Grafton Architects (Dublin, Ireland), Kengo Kuma (Tokyo, Japan), Li Xiaodong (Beijing, China), Pezo Von Ellrichshausen (Concepcion, Chile), Diebedo Francis Kere (Burkina Faso and based in Berlin, Germany).

We spent the afternoon exploring each installation and also investigating their effect on people including ourselves. Each pavilion offered a different gamut of sensory experiences and each provided a fully immersive experience. We were able to move through them, interact, play, touch, smell (and the corresponding taste), listen, etc. Sometimes it was moving, other times it was fun and at times intriguing even surprising.

We completed the visit with a lively discussion where everyone was able to express their personal impressions and perceptions. It would be very difficult to choose a favourite pavilion, each has wonderful qualities that can only be fully understood by first hand experience and active participation. We all agreed however that it was a unique and memorable experience and also that we learned a lot about the rewards of multi-sensory experiences in spaces. This is something we are very keen to explore further in the interior and surfaces of future spatial design projects on the course, looking this time at how we can enrich our sensory perceptions of everyday spaces and places.

A one of the Course Leader of the BA (Hons) Spatial Design and someone whose research interests focus on Spatial Experiences and more specifically senses and atmosphere, I’m attending a few other events linked to the exhibition. So far I have been to a talk on the making of the exhibition by the Curator Kate Goodwin and another talk on Staging Sensory Experiences with Chandler Burr, Bombas and Parr and Jo Malone. All fascinating and really insightful.

I have still to look forward to a full day’s symposia and sensing spaces on the 29th of March and I hope to be able to revisit the exhibition before it closes. The symposia is sold out but it is possible to download the full schedule at the bottom of the site’s page.

Valerie Mace at EVA conference

I presented a paper called ‘Re-imaging the environment’ the 2013 London EVA conference. Some of my more recent work explores the potential of digital visualisation tools to investigate and communicate less tangible aspects of our environment such as emotions. The paper covers a range of projects around the theme of spatial exploration as a journey through mental space, the exploration of experiential and sensory stimulations in our environment  or even what I call spatial empathy, expressed through performance and film.

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Abstract

This paper represents a study of selected visualisation and investigative methods that facilitate the exploration and expression of human emotions and perceptions within real world environments during the design development stages of a project, repositioning exploration and visualisation in spatial design education. It puts forward an outline for an iterative enquiry around human experiences in order to assess the value of alternative cognitive tools for spatial design students in higher education.

Established tools such as orthographic drawings, axonometric projections or scale models equip spatial designers with the consistency they need to investigate and represent physical attributes of space but don’t always constitute the best methods to explore the perceived environment, even though it is a key contributing factor to the way we experience our surroundings. It is therefore in the interest of design educators to investigate complementary interpretations that enable students to consciously explore less tangible aspects of design such as emotions and multi-sensorial modalities. Projects developed using tools and techniques ranging from digital 2D and 3D image making, photography, film, animation and performance provide an insight into the possibilities offered by existing visual technologies as dynamic study devices of human experiences and contribute to the generation of alternative processes in spatial design education.

Full paper