Form follows feeling : a culturally-based approach to experiential design

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Montana State University - Bozeman, College of Arts & Architecture


Through our training and expertise, architects become very visually-oriented in their approach to design. Having become subservient to sight, we have mostly forgotten how to design for other sensory experiences. If we ask our clients a specific line of qualitative questions, we might better understand how the spaces we create can perform from an experiential standpoint, thereby enabling us to create richer, deeper experiences of place. Furthermore, I propose that we can use the information garnered from this questioning to begin an architectural design by working from details at the micro scale and using them to drive the larger formal issues of our designs. My intent was to synthesize responses from interviews to determine significant qualities of space. These responses were then used to identify details of chief importance in engaging sensory experiences through the project design. These details were coalesced to formulate key experiences of the larger design, which allowed me to approach the grander gestures of the project as a whole. However, rather than focus on a fully-resolved design for the site and the building, my chief concern was focusing on the aforementioned details of the design in order to support the proposed methodology. The project focused on three key spaces that were often referred to in interviewees' responses: the gathering space, the outdoor areas, and the study rooms. At the conclusion, I found that it was in fact possible to start from the smallest microcosm of the building design, the human scale, and work outwards. This became a simultaneous exploration of scales (human, the scale of spaces, the building scale, and the site) through four facets: 1) tactility, 2) light, 3) flow, and 4) social interaction. I've found that focusing on these facets through the lens of interviewees' responses allows architects to create experiences of space centered around people and the human body. Key questions arose at the conclusion: At what point do you move beyond iterations to a resolved design? How does one quantify whether or not the design meets the experiential needs of the users? Answers to these questions necessitate deeper exploration still.




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