…the body is the soul’s prison unless the five senses are fully developed and open. –Jim Morrison
Humans have five main senses in which are used to understand themselves and the world around them. The visual sense has dominated over the other senses, especially in architecture. If only one sense is being used, how much is each human experiencing? Humans learn about their environment and about themselves through their senses. If one sense is predominantly used, that experience is limited.
How did we come to know what we know? We come to know the truth through our senses. Our senses are our learning tools. As children, we innocently touch or even bite everything that comes our way in order to gain an understanding of our environment. There is so much to learn about the world and about one’s self. A complete multi-sensory experience can help people learn more about themselves, their environment and other people as well. With a clearer perception of ourselves, others and the environment, our inner experiences are deepened and people tend to develop a sense of appreciation, which adds value to life.
How can architecture be experienced using all of the possible senses? The qualities of a space are what offer the full experience. Such qualities are temperature, textures, materiality, volume and acoustics. Simple features in design can be implemented to aid in perceiving with the whole being. A person can feel the sense of the space with the temperature of the space and the airflow. Also, the way sound travels through a space can give a person an idea of what the space is like. By offering materials that can be touched and adding plants that give off scents, we can simply enhance a space. It is the small things that make a difference.
Just as Juhani Pallasmaa said, meaningful buildings always guide our consciousness back to the world and to our sense of self...noteworthy architecture makes us experience ourselves as whole embodied and spiritual beings, incorporated in the flesh of the world (Diaconu 53). Pallasmaa’s architecture: the way spaces feel, the sound and smell of these places, has equal weight to the way things look. It is very difficult to photograph acoustics, scents or tactility, but it is hard to forget the distinctive things we hear, smell and touch. The senses give us something to remember.
“Good and thoughtful design can not only awaken our senses, but reconnect us to place and to ourselves.” -David Darling