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) – affiliate link 
  2. PALLASMAA, J. (2005) The Eyes of the Skin: Architecture and the Senses (p.41) – affiliate link