A phenomenological study of spatial experiences without sight and critique of visual dominance in architecture

Basvazici-Kulac, B | Ito-Alpturer, M


Architectural phenomenology suggests that the basis of perceptual integrity between the subject and a space is multi-sensorial. However, the advancement of visual representation techniques within architecture has led to predominance of the visual experience over other sensory modalities. As a consequence, the integrity of the user's multi-sensorial appreciation of space has been largely neglected which may impact on the holistic experience of the individual. The present study uses an architectural phenomenology approach to explore user experiences of architectural spaces without reference to visual input: the aim being to elucidate . . .key sensory modalities that drive a synthesis of the spatial experience in the absence of visual cues. In this way, the study aims to highlight the role of the non-visual, as a criticism against the tendency to present architecture as a predominantly visual phenomenon. A qualitative study of spatial experiences from four congenitally blind and three late blind individuals was carried out within the framework of architectural phenomenology. Thus, although all suffered total loss of sight, it was possible to assess the impact of latent visual memories within the second group. In-depth interviews with each participant explored responses to four semi-structured, open-ended questions. They were asked to describe; 1) what an architectural space means to them, 2) the place they live, 3) the most important architectural features that affect their experience either positively or negatively and 4) the most favourable and unfavourable place they had ever been. No time limit was imposed for answering the questions. The answers were audio recorded with permission. All participants judged an architectural space predominantly by its acoustic properties, with no clear difference between the congenital or late blindness subgroups. A frequently mentioned construct was the sense of spaciousness with the acoustic properties of architectural features such as materials and ceiling height identified as critical determinants. Tactile experiences, in the form of air circulation felt on the skin also helped the participants to judge spaciousness. But, it was odour that was often described as the feature that defines the identity of a place. Contrary to common beliefs, tactile experiences using the hands were mentioned least. We conclude that non-visual senses subserve a central role in the formulation of spatial experiences for the visually impaired and postulate that they may have similarly significant impact on the experiences of the visually adept. Designing the properties of different acoustical ambiances to promote a synergy of sensory experiences through, for example, the selection of materials or dimensional adjustment at intersections, voids, openings and atria rather than concentrating on visual impact alone would enrich the environmental experience significantly Daha fazlası Daha az

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