RISD Advanced Studio
Rhode Island School of Design

Sensorial stimuli are crucial for our ability to perceive space. This allows us to process information about our surroundings so we can recognize our relationship with them. The signals received from the eyes, nose, ears, and skin allow for the brain to create a mental image of our environment. We are able to calculate light, reverberation and echo, material quality, temperature, and distance via these signals that situate us within our reality. Without them, we would not be able to understand our relationship to space in the same way. The body then responds to these stimuli and negotiates itself within the environment. Our experience of space is directly linked to our perception of it. Manipulating sensorial experience allows for reinterpretations of perception and ultimately provides an exploration into other modes of perceiving ourselves within space and our relationship to other bodies. Allowing architecture to become more responsive provides an opportunity to create dialogue between perceiver and perceived, renegotiating the role of design as an active, rather than static or passive, participant in the production of experience.

Historically, humans have produced devices, whether as tools or through the built environment, that have allowed the manipulation of perception, using the respective technologies of the time period to do so. This is done as a matter of need (like in cases such as the Acoustic Radar developed during the war to amplify hearing capabilities), in the name of science (like Muybridge’s photographs dissecting motion showing the moving body in a way that no one had ever before perceived), and as a form of artistic expression and exploration (like countless perceptual art pieces and architectures we see throughout history). In a way, we have always been cyborg, incorporating various tools that augment

our abilities to perceive. It seems part of human nature- something that reflects culture and society and that speaks volumes about the bodies that use(d) them. Architecture always, to some degree, augments sensory experience and has the capability to take on an even more active role in this through the implementation of new technologies and the development of more communicative and responsive attitudes in our built environment.

The production of experience directly has psychological implications, impacting subjectivity in space. From a sociological standpoint, it is also inherently biased - based on the experience and collective subjective histories of those that design it. The sensorial and perceptual qualities are a crucial part of this, and so, the studio questions our norms of designing space and reflects upon sensory experience and perception of it. While it is impossible to design anything that is not in some way biased- design will inevitably reflect the subjectivity of its designer- we must be conscientious of this fact so that we may become more critical of why or how we choose to design- what social histories are we perpetuating and why. This acknowledgment of the ‘other’ ultimately creates a more equitable space that caters to a multiplicity of experiences.

Academic Year 2022 - 2023

Project Team:
Mentioned in:
Teaching, Architecture, Design, Wearable Devices
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