Experience workshop at NAi

After a long post on architectural theory, here’s something a little less heavy – but definitely not less interesting. During our graduation in Explorelab at Delft University of Technology we organized a workshop at the Netherlands Architecture Institute (NAi) in Rotterdam. The workshop was about the experience of space through the senses – the experience of architecture by participation, not just observation. The workshop consisted of 2 parts:

1. One sense at the time

In present-day architecture, vision is regarded as the most important of the senses. The other senses are often neglected when we talk about architecture. We wanted to explore how the other senses influence our perception of space.

“Vision separates us from the world whereas the other senses unite us with it.” (1)

We made sure that only one of the senses could be used while we escorted a group of participants through several different spaces. We asked them questions about their experience of the individual spaces. Is the space big or small, light or dark, or high or low?

2. Experience space by movement

We did a number of (dance) exercises in 3 different spaces at the Netherlands Architecture Institute (NAi) to get to know the spaces. Some of the exercises were: walk around, finding lines, relax in space, and walk towards and away from each other. The idea was to find out different aspects that define space by using all our senses. Aspects like orientation, focus, reference points and how we felt in these different environments.


We made a video of our experiences. If you’re interested, have a look:


The results show us that perceiving solely with vision gives us a distorted perception of space, especially in comparison with the separate use of smell and touch. They tend to describe space a lot more accurately.

“Experiencing architecture is multi-sensory; qualities of space, matter and scale are measured together by the eye, ear, nose, skin, tongue, skeleton and muscle. Architecture strengthens one’s sense of being in the world, and this is basically an enforced experience of self. Instead of mere vision, or the five classical senses, architecture involves several realms of sensory experience which interact and fuse into each other.” (2)

If you would like read a more detailed report of this workshop, you can find it at: Experience workshop at Netherlands Architecture Institute. And if you want to know more about this subject, start by reading: How to design atmospheres attuned to the concerns of the user.

Do you know any other exercises we could do to experience space?

We would really like to hear your ideas on this subject. And if you have any comments or questions – please let us know.


  1. PALLASMAA, J. (2005) The Eyes of the Skin: Architecture and the Senses (p.25)
  2. PALLASMAA, J. (2005) The Eyes of the Skin: Architecture and the Senses (p.41)

16 thoughts on “Workshop: How to experience space through the senses?

  1. a realization of interior spaces can be misleading when viewed only from the outside. an interactive interior that melds and re forms the exterior via a persons actions and pathways ‘inside” would be cool. i keep envisioning a series of curtains on rods that overlap and intertwine…. just a random thought.

    1. @Vanessa: Thanks for your comment. You have some interesting ideas there. Would the curtains interact with both their surroundings and the persons actions? And how would you see that happening… just thinking out loud here.

  2. It was avery intresting and good work shop, it’s very important to experience space through our senses, actualy i’m doing a PhD in this topic, we have to look architecture again, in another way not only by vision, unfortunately visual space perception has become the main perception of architecture. And after the first experience, we see that everyone takes off its blind fold first, and after that take of their nose wrap!!
    Nice.good luck

    1. @Maryam: I believe that if architects will focus on more than just the visual aspect of perception, architecture would become a lot more interesting and appealing. It could also help architects to become more aware of how the other senses influence our (subconscious) perception of space and how to use this awareness in future designs.

      Could you tell a bit more about your PhD? What is you background? I’m really interested in the topic of experiencing space through our senses. You can contact me by using the contact form on this blog.

  3. I am currently working on a thesis that blends architecture, the senses, and dance. I have read this book and have many other sources if you are interested! Also check out my blog!

    1. hey i m interested 2 hav de materials…. doin a thesis topic on blind institutes and wrking in the sense for their spaces…!!!

      1. please guide me thru… like i would like to have guidance i topics relating 2 sense n built form dat can help built a blind school….. plz help…..!!!

  4. Your exercises were quite intriguing . I am student of architecture ug program and i want to do my dissertation on a similar topic i.e.-designing a space which enhances one’s senses.Pls do suggest some guidelines

  5. Have a clever 11year old very interested in architecture, how can we spend a fun but interesting day exploring architecture we live in south east England any ideas gratefully received

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