The sensory experience of space

Kate Baker, Belinda Mitchell

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review

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Our bodies are in constant dialogue with our surroundings. Our understanding of architectural and interior space is predicated on this although it is not always very obvious. We tend to think of it and record it as a visual experience. As a consequence, we analyse buildings and interiors through conventional visual representation, which does not take into account our other senses. We concentrate on what things ‘look’ like. We have been challenging this approach. By considering the interplay between our bodies and buildings, we can gather insights into the habitability of buildings and our environment, and how we occupy and understand space. To investigate this further we asked students to analyse buildings and how people use them through observing and engaging with dance and movement within a building. In this paper we will be exploring our sensory experience of space, ways of expressing it, and to use this as a basis for the design process. Our movements through a building are central to the design process for architects and interior designers. We will consider the dialogue between built form; it’s textural and material qualities, and our haptic response to it. We aim to develop a new language of drawing that expresses students’ personal experience of space rather that a more delineated and ordered way of understanding space that comes from a more conventional ways of recording space. We are looking at the body and its dynamic relationship with buildings and discussing experimental ways of notation that incorporate the dialogue between body and building. We think of this as a creative process that develops with the involvement of dancer/artist/ student. To understand how we experience buildings, by trying to connect the felt and the abstract, we have encouraged students to use themselves as a resource in a building. The buildings provide the frame to work within, the container and the contained. We will describe an on-going project at the University of Portsmouth, now in its second year, where students work together with dancers and artists. It requires a process of loosing inhibitions, having to invite uncertainty, and allow for mistakes, or questioning when there is no clear path to follow. Design students tend to use drawing for analysis and are encouraged into accuracy. Their drawing boxes consist of the 0.1/0.5 ink pen a pencil and memory stick, they work with CAD. The output for their thinking ends up on a screen or a small-scale sketchbook. Very rarely do the students get the opportunity to ‘touch’ their process, the tactility of a drawing, its gestural and sensual qualities. We are interested in how experiencing space and exploring experimental ways of notating space come together and give a definition to a new space.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 20 Jun 2008
EventAt Memory and touch: an exploration of textural communication - RIBA, London
Duration: 7 May 2008 → …


ConferenceAt Memory and touch: an exploration of textural communication
CityRIBA, London
Period7/05/08 → …


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