Designing Sensual Spaces: Integration of Spatial Flows Beyond the Visual

By Ulrike Passe.

Published by The Design Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Architectural design is an intellectual process which mediates between the hand and the eye to produce visual images for communication of spatial properties. Space and its composition are usually depicted by drafting a geometrically constructed image of material limits. These types of drawings usually do not communicate anything about spatial behavior, performance or experience. They communicate the physical boundaries but not the behavioral content of space, which is air--its movement patterns, temperatures and odors. Spatial continuity is furthermore dissected through orthographic projection, which dismembers a whole into parts. But corners are as essential to spatial experience as is the behavioral qualities of air. With very few exceptions architectural design practices most often still operate within a tradition of pure form and pure space, which are shaped as a balance of aesthetics and function.
New computational tools like computational fluid dynamics (CFD), which were developed to simulate spatial behavior of non-visual phenomena, could integrate the knowledge of other sensual experiences and perceptions beyond the visual into the design practice. But various questions arise related to architectural design practices. How close are those abstractions to ‘real’ spatial experiences? And how feasible is the integration of such tools into the design process to date? What alternatives do architects have to integrate the non-visual into architectural representation?
This paper will thus address possibilities to restructure the relationship between design practices and environmental forces like heat transfer and air movement, with the goal of developing a better understanding of how to integrate natural air and energy flows into architectural design representation and thus into the design itself. New methods of representation are necessary for a renewed understanding of space that addresses all senses. The design principles which are highlighted are representation, visualization and simulation of space and its boundaries or boundary condition. Using examples from design research and design pedagogy, the paper also contributes to the ongoing debate about sensual culture and challenges a purely visual reception and perception of the world we live in and design for. Reality is also tactile, thermal and olfactory.

Keywords: Architecture, Visualization, Five Senses, Spatial Comfort, Thermal Behavior

Design Principles and Practices: An International Journal, Volume 3, Issue 5, pp.31-46. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 2.449MB).

Ulrike Passe

Assistant Professor of Architecture, Department of Architecture, College of Design, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa, USA

My compass for research, teaching and practice is the Passage du Nord-Ouest as taken by Michel Serres to describe the passage between the humanities and science. Through the course of my career I went from speculative urban concept designs for the newly unified Berlin to culturally and socially relevant communal architectural projects, which I worked on as a project architect. I then taught undergraduate design and structure studios at the Technical Unversity in Berlin, where I also carried out a research project in widespan steel construction and got more and more interested in the architectural space as a technology for more energy efficiency in building and climate design. I ran my own practice in Berlin, Germany, was involved in higher education policy at the Fachhochschule in Potsdam. I work on a research agenda at Iowa State University for the study of free-flow open space and air flow intertwined between culture, climate and nature as in the work of Alvar Aalto, to see materiality and construction, energy efficiency and sustainability in a critical cultural context. I am teaching Design in the Graduate School and start a course on Environmental Forces in Architecture.

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