Sensory Design

Sensory design explores the way in which our bodies respond to the spaces that we are integrated in, it looks beyond the image of architecture, taking a holistic approach to design; how it makes you think and experience space. This relates to Phenomenology. “The discipline of phenomenology may be defined initially as the study of structures of experience, or consciousness. Literally, phenomenology is the study of “phenomena”: appearances of things, or things as they appear in our experience, or the ways we experience things, thus the meanings things have in our experience (Stanford, 2013.) It creates humane design.

Architect Pallasmaa believes there are seven senses involved in designing architecture. These include sight, hearing, smell, touch, movement, bodily awareness and taste. When discussing bodily awareness within the space, Pallasma argues “an architect internalises a building in his body; movement, balance, distance and scale are felt unconsciously through the body as tension in the muscular system and in the positions of the skeleton and inner organs” (Pallasma, 2005. Pg unknown.) He infers within a space the visitors body is unconsciously aware of the surroundings, considering size, scale and distance. He also argues one measures a space within relationship to your body, such as measuring how far you should step, that architecture makes us conscious of gravity and earth.

An example of an artist that explores sensory design in architecture is Swiss Architect Peter Zumthor, who focuses on emotion and memories. “Every once in a while, I get this feeling of presence. Sometimes in me, but definitely in the mountains. If I look at these rocks, those stones, I get a feeling of presence, of space, of material.”( Zumthor, 2013.) Zumthor argues sensory design creates a feeling of presence for the user, particularly with the use of transitioning raw materials.  An example of this is St Benedict chapel, which uses tiles made of wood that change their colours and textures over time.



Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (2013) Phenomenology. (accessed 28.02.2017)

Pallasmaa, J. (2005) The Eyes of the Skin: Architecture and the Senses. 2005. USA. John Wiley & Sons.

Zumthor, P. Archdaily (2013), ‘Peter Zumthor: Seven Personal Observations on Presence In Architecture’, (accessed 28.02.2017)

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