Research Topic

The Senses in Architecture and in Urban Landscaping: An Interdisciplinary Approach

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About this Research Topic

Contemporary methodologies of architectural design are mostly concerned with two problems – conceptualisation of the project’s idea and optimization of the corresponding spatial form. While standardization, including the mathematization of design procedures, allows the architects to offer optimum solutions with regard to the spatial and cost efficiency of the projects, insufficient consideration has been given to the embodied subjects, who represent these data, and who process and interpret them while using the actual space. An increasing number of the instances of depopulation or desertion of “optimally” built environments prompts a revision of the methodologies used so far in design processes. The dehumanisation of architecture, the negligence of human physicality and the problem of destabilisation of their homeostasis reveals the designers’ insufficient understanding of the sensory processes and the role of the senses in shaping the environment of human life.

Most cultures possess a cognitive model based on five senses. Normally, it comprises sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch, the manifestations of which are assumed to be the external physical organs such as the eye, the ear, the nose, the tongue, and the skin. Individual senses are differentiated on the basis of cultural practices of the members of a given society in everyday use, where they function as the modes of gathering information about the world. Scientific research emphasizes a different function, however – that of a purposeful, rational control of the actions and opinions of the perceiving subject, shaped on the basis of data obtained from the environment. Still, these variations have not been reflected in design methodologies yet. The architects tacitly assume that the differences in the mode of collection and usage of data by each of the senses are somehow obvious, without offering any conscious reflection on the scientifically identified, analysed and described modes of conceptualization of the senses, and without understanding their nature, which is the basis of their differentiation and classification. Most of all, they do not seem to understand the difference between the senses and the other human abilities of gathering and storing data from the environment. Insufficient consideration has also been given to the question of whether all of the environment data is controlled by the senses and directly available to human subjectivity, and whether the supplied and processed perceptive material and its use in designing is contingent on the context, be it environmental, cultural, or cognitive one. Do the senses function as environmentally flexible indicators? That is to say, are they capable of drawing on time and space regularities? What about bodily responses and actions taken, such as epistemic inference or opinion revision? Finally, what are the senses if treated as perceptive systems? Are these issues a matter of concern to design methodology?

The aim of this Research Topic is to provide a critical view of the way in which we understand the senses and its role in the theory and practice of architecture and landscaping. Contemporary scientists suggest numerous possibilities of the classification and conceptualization of the senses, carried out not only according to the physical organ involved, like eyes, skin, ear, nose, or tongue. The other criteria of classification may refer to what the senses represent (for instance, movement, shape, or distance), what stimuli they receive and what the source of stimulation is (an electromagnetic wave, mechanical pressure, or air movements), a kind of sensory input received (tactile, auditory, or kinetic one), or neuronal information. If taken into account, these criteria may have an impact not only on the number of the senses but also on their differentiation (into external, internal, and cognitive ones).

To summarize, it is worth recognizing that the use of the alternative notion of the senses, such as the neurocognitive, neuroaesthetic, enactive, extended, neurobiological, anthropological, and cultural one may have profound consequences, in that it leads to the adoption of different paradigms in architectural theory and practice. The question also remains how do these changes affect the understanding of such issues, for example a "spatial order," "city landscape" or "universal architecture"? Do architects and designers understand the senses and sensations in the same way as scientists and other professionals?


Keywords: design methodologies, architecture, urban planning, city space, landscaping, senses, aesthetics, neuroaesthetic, cognitivism, enactivism, environment perception


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

Contemporary methodologies of architectural design are mostly concerned with two problems – conceptualisation of the project’s idea and optimization of the corresponding spatial form. While standardization, including the mathematization of design procedures, allows the architects to offer optimum solutions with regard to the spatial and cost efficiency of the projects, insufficient consideration has been given to the embodied subjects, who represent these data, and who process and interpret them while using the actual space. An increasing number of the instances of depopulation or desertion of “optimally” built environments prompts a revision of the methodologies used so far in design processes. The dehumanisation of architecture, the negligence of human physicality and the problem of destabilisation of their homeostasis reveals the designers’ insufficient understanding of the sensory processes and the role of the senses in shaping the environment of human life.

Most cultures possess a cognitive model based on five senses. Normally, it comprises sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch, the manifestations of which are assumed to be the external physical organs such as the eye, the ear, the nose, the tongue, and the skin. Individual senses are differentiated on the basis of cultural practices of the members of a given society in everyday use, where they function as the modes of gathering information about the world. Scientific research emphasizes a different function, however – that of a purposeful, rational control of the actions and opinions of the perceiving subject, shaped on the basis of data obtained from the environment. Still, these variations have not been reflected in design methodologies yet. The architects tacitly assume that the differences in the mode of collection and usage of data by each of the senses are somehow obvious, without offering any conscious reflection on the scientifically identified, analysed and described modes of conceptualization of the senses, and without understanding their nature, which is the basis of their differentiation and classification. Most of all, they do not seem to understand the difference between the senses and the other human abilities of gathering and storing data from the environment. Insufficient consideration has also been given to the question of whether all of the environment data is controlled by the senses and directly available to human subjectivity, and whether the supplied and processed perceptive material and its use in designing is contingent on the context, be it environmental, cultural, or cognitive one. Do the senses function as environmentally flexible indicators? That is to say, are they capable of drawing on time and space regularities? What about bodily responses and actions taken, such as epistemic inference or opinion revision? Finally, what are the senses if treated as perceptive systems? Are these issues a matter of concern to design methodology?

The aim of this Research Topic is to provide a critical view of the way in which we understand the senses and its role in the theory and practice of architecture and landscaping. Contemporary scientists suggest numerous possibilities of the classification and conceptualization of the senses, carried out not only according to the physical organ involved, like eyes, skin, ear, nose, or tongue. The other criteria of classification may refer to what the senses represent (for instance, movement, shape, or distance), what stimuli they receive and what the source of stimulation is (an electromagnetic wave, mechanical pressure, or air movements), a kind of sensory input received (tactile, auditory, or kinetic one), or neuronal information. If taken into account, these criteria may have an impact not only on the number of the senses but also on their differentiation (into external, internal, and cognitive ones).

To summarize, it is worth recognizing that the use of the alternative notion of the senses, such as the neurocognitive, neuroaesthetic, enactive, extended, neurobiological, anthropological, and cultural one may have profound consequences, in that it leads to the adoption of different paradigms in architectural theory and practice. The question also remains how do these changes affect the understanding of such issues, for example a "spatial order," "city landscape" or "universal architecture"? Do architects and designers understand the senses and sensations in the same way as scientists and other professionals?


Keywords: design methodologies, architecture, urban planning, city space, landscaping, senses, aesthetics, neuroaesthetic, cognitivism, enactivism, environment perception


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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