In our series Architectural means we’re trying to find answers to the questions: Which architectural means do we have to create specific atmospheres that can elicit specific emotions? In this post we’ll talk about the aspect Tension and pressure as one of the architectural mean we have to create specific architectural atmospheres.

Tension and pressure

A famous quote by Goethe “The hands want to see, the eyes want to caress” (1) explains why young children want to touch everything they see, and often they even want to check if it is possible to eat. They learn by experience if something is eatable or not and how the textures of materials feel. Next to textures they also learn weight, solidity and heat-conducting ability of materials. Even when adults see a new material they feel the need to touch this.

Archer with bow and arrow
Erasmus Bridge by Ben van Berkel, Rotterdam, The Netherlands

When children start to play with arrow and bow they feel what tension means and will see this tension in the future in bridges like the Erasmus bridge in Rotterdam. This bridge completed in 1996 and designed by Ben van Berkel is tensioned like a harp.

Caryatids; Acropolis, Athens

An example of pressure are the Caryatids on the Acropolis in Athens. The caryatids hold the weight of the architrave. You can almost feel the pressure on their heads.

Tension and pressure
We feel the tension in the Erasmus bridge, because we have experienced tension before.

What do you think?

We’re always interested your ideas. If you have any comments, questions or ideas – please let us know!



  1. GOETHE, J. W. von, as quoted in PALLASMAA, J. (2005) The Eyes of the Skin: Architecture and the Senses (p. 14) – affiliate link

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