Title: Less Vision, More Senses. Towards a More Multisensory Design Approach in Architecture. (Less vision, more senses. Naar een meer multisensoriële ontwerpbenadering in architectuur.)
Other Titles: Less Vision, More Senses. Towards a More Multisensory Design Approach in Architecture.
Authors: Vermeersch, Peter-Willem
Issue Date: 28-Jan-2013
Abstract: The built environment is often designed with a visual appreciation or function in mind, to such an extent that some attribute a visual bias to architecture and architectural practice. A possible explanation for this visual bias can be found in the widespread use of visualisation techniques and the underrepresented human body in architects’ design process. However, we interact with the built environment using our entire body and all of its senses. People with a visual impairment have to deal with an environment that is often inadequately designed for non-visual use. On the other hand, they have a nuanced knowledge of the non-visual qualities of their environment. In line with a cultural model of disability, the knowledge that people with a visual impairment have may also help to challenge prevailing practices and to overcome the visual bias in architecture.For this PhD we investigated how an interaction between architecture/architects and (a notion of) visual impairment/visually impaired people might lead to a more multisensory approach in how architects understand and design space. We conducted three retrospective case studies of design projects in which such kind of interaction is present and we set up one real time case study to investigate the inclusion of two blind user/experts in the design process of an architecture firm.To study these four cases we conducted interviews, observed and participated in design activities, and collected design documents. For the analysis of the collected material we departed from a literature review on the senses in architecture and on design processes with a focus on the mediating role of represenational artefacts used by architects. Firstly, a postphenomenological framework of perception departs from the premise that perception is based on a co-constitution between person and world. This allows an analysis of perception of space in which the building plays a role as well as the specific background and bodily state of the (visually impaired) person perceiving. Secondly, a situational framework of the design process as a social and material endeavour allows studying the mediating role of design artefacts and their use in involving visually impaired user/experts.The analyses of the multisensory space in the different cases, in terms of both how they were designed and how they are intended to be perceived, resulted in an extended notion of space in architecture. Space is typically defined by the sensory qualities of the different objects and building elements making up its boundaries. From the perceptions of the visually impaired persons involved in this research, however, we learned that space in itself is also a filled entity with its own sensory qualities. Furthermore, different sensory spaces interact. They may coincide or (partially) overlap, strengthening and/or contradicting each other, which adds to the possible complexity and differentiation of multisensory space.Two cases we studied were projects designed by an architect who lost his sight. From these two architects we learned how they adapted their design processes and design representations for non-visual use; and how to analyse and give shape to non-visual space. They learned to become affected by their changed body and translated this affect into their design tools. Via the notion of scale, we found a correlation between their haptic perception of the environment, the role of haptics in using and shaping design representations, and designing shapes intended to offer particular haptic qualities.With what we learned from the retrospective case studies we set up the involvement of two blind user/experts in the design process of an architecture firm. The involvement took shape as a joint site visit, a workshop around developing supporting visuo-haptic representational artefacts, an intermediary design meeting using said artefacts, and a presentation of the final design proposal. Especially during the site visit, multisensory qualities of the building site and existing buildings were easily discussed between the architects and the user/experts. During the design meeting the artefacts we created offered an interesting medium for (haptic) spatial exploration of the proposal, and a sufficient understanding of the design to formulate critiquing questions. However, the user/experts did not go as far as making actual design moves themselves. On the other hand, both architects and user/experts mentioned further opportunities for interaction later in the design process.
Table of Contents: Acknowledgments iii
Abstract v
Samenvatting vii
Contents ix
Figures xv

1 Overcoming a Visual Bias in Architecture 1
1 Architecture and the Human Body 2
1.1 Anthropomorphism through time 2
1.2 Functional organicism 3
1.3 Modernism 4
1.4 Ergonomics 6
1.5 The underrepresented body in the design process 8
2 A Visual Bias in Architecture 10
2.1 Western ocularcentrism 11
2.2 Ocularcentrism in the design process and design media 14
2.3 Critiques on architecture’s visual bias 16
3 Experience of People with a Visual Impairment 18
3.1 Models of disability 18
Definitions of impairment, disability and handicap 23
3.2 A critique on ocularcentrism from visually impaired people 27
3.3 Beyond critique: user/expertise in the cultural model 28
4 Research Questions 29
5 Thesis Outline 30

2 Architecture and the Senses 33
1 Perception and the Senses 34
1.1 The process of inference 35
1.2 Representationlist approach to perception versus (post)phenomenolgy 36
1.3 Multistability 38
1.4 Mediation 40
1.5 Perception in intentional movement 45
2 The Senses in Architectural Theory and Architecture 46
2.1 Rasmussen: perceiving architecture 46
2.2 Norberg-Schulz: architectural theory based on perception 48
2.3 Porter: the perception of space 51
2.4 Pallasmaa: overcoming a visual bias in architecture 52
2.5 Zumthor: atmosphere, sensations and object perception 54
3 Learning to Perceive with an Altered Body 56
4 Multisensory Processes 59
4.1 Similarities in sensory modalities 59
4.2 Perception as interacting sensory modalities 60
4.3 Multisensory object constancy 62
5 Concluding Remarks 63

3 Design Processes in Architecture 65
1 Design Representation 65
1.1 Model-based reasoning 66
1.2 A short history of representational artefacts in architectural design 67
1.3 Representational artefacts in contemporary design practice 71
1.4 Collectives of representational artefacts 74
A taxonomy of the representations made by architects 77
2 Mediation in the Design Process 79
2.1 Mediation of perception 79
2.2 Mediation of action 83
2.3 Mediation of cognition 86
3 Collective Design and the Involvement of Users(/Experts) 88
4 Concluding Remarks 91

4 Research Setup and Methodology 93
1 Case Study Research 94
1.1 Case selection 95
2 Retrospective Case Studies 98
2.1 Research setup and data collection 98
2.2 Collected data 100
3 Real-time Case Study 101
3.1 Research setup 101
3.2 Data collection and processing 102
4 Data Analysis and Validation 104
5 Detailed Overview of Collected Data 106
5 Four Cases of Visual Impairment Meeting Architecture 115
1 Glass House 2001 for a Blind Man, Penezić & Rogina Architects 116
1.1 Architects’ biography 117
1.2 Design brief 117
1.3 Client/users 119
1.4 Location 120
1.5 Concept 120
1.6 Spatial organisation 122
1.7 Presentation 123
1.8 Design process 125
2 Sea Bathing Facility, Carlos Mourão Pereira 126
2.1 Architect’s biography 126
2.2 Design brief 127
2.3 Client/users 127
2.4 Concept 127
2.5 Location 129
2.6 Spatial organisation 131
2.7 Presentation 132
2.8 Design process 133
3 Polytrauma and Blind Rehab Centre, Smith Group/The Design Partnership (Christopher Downey) 136
3.1 Architects’ biography 137
3.2 Design brief 137
3.3 Client/users 138
3.4 Location 139
3.5 Concept 140
3.6 Spatial organisation 141
3.7 Presentation 144
3.8 Design process 144
4 Lille Town Hall, ONO Architectuur 146
4.1 Architects’ and User/Experts’ biography 147
4.2 Design brief 147
4.3 Client/users 148
4.4 Location 149
4.5 Concept 149
4.6 Spatial organisation 150
4.7 Presentation 151
4.8 Design process 154

6 Visual Impairment and Multisensory Architecture 157
1 Architecture-Visual Impairment Relations 158
1.1 Altered body, changed engagement with the environment 158
1.2 Learning from people with a visual impairment 164
2 Multisensory Space in Architecture 167
2.1 Extending the notion of space 167
2.2 Multisensory space 170
2.3 Graphic analysis of multisensory space 173
3 Adding Multisensory Qualities to Architecture 187
3.1 Getting to know a building and site 187
3.2 Way-finding, orientation and place making 189
3.3 Material selection 190
3.4 More-than-visual aesthetics 192
4 Concluding Remarks 193

7 Scaling Haptics—Haptic Scaling 195
1 Introduction 196
2 Staging the Question of Scale and Haptic Perception 197
3 Haptic Design Tools for a Dynamic Process 199
4 Haptic Design Tools and Haptic Design Qualities 202
5 Conclusion 206

8 Visuo-Haptic Models 209
1 Conceiving and Testing Visuo-Haptic Design Artefacts 210
1.1 Three artefacts, three scales 210
1.2 User representation and user involvement 212
1.3 Inscribed psycho-motor competencies: haptic perception 213
1.4 Inscribed cognitive competencies: memory and reinterpretation 215
1.5 Inscribed social competencies: communicating design 217
2 Using visuo-haptic design artefacts in a design meeting 218
2.1 Providing a basis for social interactions 219
2.2 Building an understanding of the spatial configuration 223
2.3 Facilitating for preferential perceptual engagements 225
3 Concluding Remarks 227

9 Conclusion 229
1 Learning from Visual Impairment 229
2 Research Approach 230
3 Multisensory Space in Architecture 231
4 Exchanging Multisensory Spatial Knowledge 233
5 Designing from and for Blind Perception 235
6 Involvement of User/Experts 235
7 Future Research 238
8 Final Thoughts 240

Bibliography 243
Publications 255
ISBN: 978-94-6018-613-4
Publication status: published
KU Leuven publication type: TH
Appears in Collections:Research Group CAAD, Design- and Building Methodology (-)
Department of Architecture - miscellaneous
Architecture and Design (+)

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